In an effort to assist the city’s elderly and residents with disabilities, the North Miami City Council has earmarked $400,000 for a housing improvement program meant to repair and replace damaged roofs and windows and help with other fixes.
The program, approved at Tuesday’s meeting, is being introduced as local governments face potential reductions or outright denial of U.S. Housing and Urban Development funding in next year’s budget. The proposed budget from President Donald Trump includes a 13 percent cut to the department including programs like the community development block grant program and the HOME program.
Mayor Smith Joseph said that after housing secretary Ben Carson’s recent visit to Miami, the city doesn’t expect much support.
“The message that [Carson] carried from President Trump is, do not expect any federal dollars from HUD in the 17-18 year,” Joseph said.
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North Miami’s beautification program will be citywide and is specifically for property owners who have homes in poor or substandard condition. The applicant has to live in the house, collect a homestead exemption and can’t have an annual household income above about $59,000 for a single-person household or about $85,000 for a four-person household.
The city is offering two tiers of funding that will go up to $20,000. The first tier is capped at $10,000 and is geared toward beautification projects like replacing shutters and gutters, repaving a driveway or painting the exterior. The second category will cap at $20,000 and is for replacing or repairing roofs, doors and windows.
If an applicant needs more than $20,000, that decision would come to the City Council and could not go above about $24,000.
Applicants will be placed in a lottery but preference in the initial application process will be given to residents who are 62 and older and to people with disabilities. The program criteria will also disqualify applicants who have participated in other city beautification programs in the last five years unless the damage at their home presents a significant safety issue.
Some residents said that while they support the program, they wonder if the money could be put to better use.
“Four hundred thousand dollars is a lot of money that maybe could be used to buy public land for parks … or some investment that will help more in the long run,” Ilyana Albarrán said.
The City Council also briefly discussed eliminating the lottery process, but Councilman Alix Desulme argued that it was the best way to ensure a fair playing field for the applicants.
“If you have 100 people with a hole on their roof, how do you decide who comes first?” Desulme said.
The resolution also addresses potential conflicts of interest and requires the applicant and contractor to indicate what relationship they have, if any, with city staff members, advisory board members or City Council members.
About five years ago the city had to pay back about $154,000 to HUD because former Councilwoman Marie Steril’s mother utilized HUD’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program at her home, and the city never indicated to the department that Steril’s mother had family ties to an elected official.
Steril was ordered by the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission to pay nearly $5,000 to North Miami after the commission found probable cause that Steril violated the county’s ethics code.
The city’s community redevelopment agency has also designated $700,000 for a similar beautification project for homeowners in the city’s redevelopment area, which covers the majority of the city’s central and western side and a portion of the east side off Biscayne Boulevard.