Fabiola Santiago: Loving Miami’s newfound glamour, but our excesses may do us in

07/08/2014 6:33 PM

07/08/2014 7:31 PM

Once upon a time, not so long ago that we can afford to forget, Miami had a terrible national reputation.

Now everywhere I go, people lust after Miami the way I swoon over Paris.

They’re eyeing that downtown pied a terre within walking distance of performing arts venues, fine dining and museums. Or they dream of retiring to South Beach — rising seas, clutter and road reconstruction notwithstanding. They fancy season tickets to Miami Heat games, although LeBron James’ nostalgia for Akron is (temporarily, I hope) putting a damper on that situation.

And they ask me for insider advice as if I were a concierge at a boutique hotel.

If we were “ Paradise Lost,” as Time magazine famously nicknamed us in the Miami Vice and cocaine-cowboys era, we’re now “Paradise Coveted.”

Battle-scarred from having to constantly defend the Republic in the past — when the count of dead bodies in car trunks and the river wasn’t all that ailed us, but our intolerant souls at war with each other, too — I am loving the acclaim.

Why, someone from the Northeast accused me the other day of being insensitive because I was from “the big city,” the implication being sophistication and boldness beyond ordinary. Something only a skinny French woman who eats heartily could claim.

If it all sounds too good to be true, it is, in a way.

There’s no utopia — not even in sunny weather.

As it turns out, too much of a good rap is bad for us.

Our newfound glamour and fame has sent our real estate prices skyrocketing to the point that Miamians can’t afford Miami. Forget any condo canyon with a view — they’re all out of our price range these days.

Most residents don’t have the kind of large cash deposits required to get into the high-priced condo market — nor could they afford the mortgages at those price points anyway, the Miami Herald’s Martha Brannigan reported. The buyers these days are foreigners: Brazilians, Venezuelans, Argentines, Russians and the French are leading sales.

Nor can we, Miamians, afford our rents.

A friend returning to Miami from Manhattan, accustomed to Big Apple sticker shock but not to Miami’s updated real estate market, told me she was asked for $3,000 a month for a two-bedroom apartment in the Brickell area. She had bolted from house-hunting in Coral Gables, where rents for small, older homes ranged from $3,100 to $3,800.

“I’m living like a [rich] Brazilian,” she told me about her Brickell address. “I think I’m the only Cuban in my building.”

Prompted by the Herald report, I did some homework on my suburban end of the county, and over a café con leche, learned that I couldn’t afford to buy now the A+ school zone in which I raised my children. A Realtor priced an identical house a few blocks away at a measly $5,000 short of a half-million. Not even with the kind of profit I’d make on a sale, however, can one buy today’s trendy condos.

My excitement at my newfound wealth, on paper anyhow, is tempered by the war-inspired philosophy that those who don’t remember history are doomed to repeat it. We were at this point before in the early 2000s — but overdevelopment combined with “creative” financing practices brought on a disastrous bust market.

Our excesses do us in every time.

Love it or list it, Miamians, we can’t have our flan and eat it, too.

About Fabiola Santiago

Fabiola Santiago

@fabiolasantiago

Fabiola Santiago was born in Cuba. She was exiled to the U.S. in 1969 on one of the historic Freedom Flights. She has been a Herald reporter and editor since 1980.

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