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Priced out of Paradise: City in Transition
Miami-Dade is the most expensive metro in the U.S. for renters and one of the costliest for home buyers. This series explains why that’s so and what it means for the region and its residents. Our interactive tool helps renters and buyers match their budgets to affordable neighborhoods. Future stories will explore solutions to South Florida’s housing crisis.
There are large pockets in Flagami, the westernmost district of the City of Miami, where time seems to have stood still. The flat tiled roofs, the modest landscaping and the plain, straightforward architecture of the homes make you feel like you’ve traveled back to Miami sometime circa 1965.
“While the rest of Miami-Dade has grown and matured, Flagami has stood still,” said Albert Yabor, CEO and managing broker at Century 21 Yarlex International Realty. “This neighborhood is where a lot of the influx of the exile communities that started coming to South Florida in the 1960s settled. A lot of those people kept their homes and passed them on to their kids, so you have multiple generations living here. That’s one of the characteristics that makes this community so charming.”
Flagami is named after its main thoroughfares, Flagler Street and the Tamiami Canal that flows along its western edge. The boot-shaped district stretches south from the Miami International Airport to Southwest Eighth Street and spans east to Douglas Road.
Some of the modest, brightly colored homes that make up this working-class neighborhood have windows that still bear masking-tape residue shaped like an X — a remnant of an era when Miamians thought simple tape could protect their homes from hurricane winds.
Other homes have modern impact windows and have been renovated with new fences, doors and landscaping. Small corner grocery stores are scattered throughout Flagami, catering to residents who eschew bigger, more modern outlets at its northernmost edge such as Publix and CVS.
A spider web of power and cable lines crisscross over many of Flagami’s streets. Nearly every other residence in the neighborhood, including apartment buildings, sports security bars, reflective of the area’s higher-than-average property crime index.
Fluency in Spanish is practically a requirement here, even by Miami-Dade standards. According to U.S. Census data, 95 percent of the neighborhood’s population speak a language other than English at home, and 61 percent speak English less than “very well.”
The strip malls that line Flagler and Seventh Streets offer everything from photo studios that specialize in Quinceañera portraits to pawnshops, travel agencies to liquor stores. Restaurants specializing in Cuban pizza are common. A Palacio de Los Jugos location is almost always bustling. If you need to fix a flat tire, you can try “El mago de los ponches.”
But despite its convenient location, with proximity to the airport and State Road 836, gentrification has not yet come to Flagami. During one tour of the neighborhood in July, Yabor could find only one single-family home priced under $300,000 — a two-bedroom, decrepit property at 110 NW 47th Ave. that would require so much investment to bring up to code, even the bargain price of $195,000 hasn’t generated much buyer interest.
Homes priced above $350,000 are much more plentiful around the neighborhood.
The stock of available condos is even deeper. A two-bedroom, two-bath, 957-square-foot unit at Blue Lagoon Condominiums, a four-building development built in 2003 on Northwest Seventh Street, offers stunning views of Blue Lagoon, an ample terrace, tiled floors and a spacious, modern kitchen. Price: $275,000.
An older, 1,300-square-foot unit at the Granada Grand Condo at 5271 SW Eighth St. boasts grand 10-foot ceilings, three bedrooms and two baths, and views of the Biltmore Hotel to the south and downtown Miami to the east, for $239,900.
“Flagami is one of those markets where the affordability is still very strong for buyers,” Yabor said. “You’re seeing a lot of people coming here to take advantage of this great real estate inventory.”
The growing interest in Flagami is reflected in the median list price for single-family homes in the area, which jumped 13 percent, from $265,000 to $300,000, year over year from May 2018 to 2019.
But the neighborhood is still relatively affordable for people such as Reiner Toledo, 23, who was priced out of Hialeah Gardens and relocated to a two-bedroom home in Flagami he shares with his brother. Toledo’s half of the monthly rent is $850.
“It’s a friendly neighborhood,” Toledo said one recent morning as he took his French bulldog, Jazz, out for some sun. “You get a lot more space for your money here. It’s maybe not as cool as other neighborhoods, but I really like it here.”
▪ Population: 53,962
▪ Median household income: $34,088
▪ Median age: 42.3 years
▪ Main intersection: West Flagler Street and 57th Avenue
▪ Average school grade: B
▪ Personal crime index: 127
▪ Property Crime Index: 131