Real Estate News

In Miami, most workers can’t afford market rents. These lucky ones found housing

How workforce housing allows this family to enjoy Brickell without breaking the bank

Maydelin Quintero, 34, lives in a two-bedroom Brickell apartment with her husband and two young children. Here’s how workforce housing improves the family’s quality of life.
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Maydelin Quintero, 34, lives in a two-bedroom Brickell apartment with her husband and two young children. Here’s how workforce housing improves the family’s quality of life.

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As Miami-Dade housing costs have skyrocketed, far outstripping wages, those who work here struggle to find safe housing that costs less than 30 percent of their salary. It’s a issue striking a growing swathe of residents, from low-skilled hourly workers to those with advanced degrees.

“People believe this is only about poor people and it’s not,” said Janisse Schoepp, vice president of operations and strategy for the non-profit Health Foundation of South Florida. “We need to do a better job of explaining the definition of affordable and workforce housing and telling the stories of individuals who live there. We’re talking about firefighters, nurses, teachers. who are still cost-burdened. These people are well-educated and have jobs.”

People such as Maydelin Quintero, who earned a Master’s degree in mental health from Carlos Albizu University in 2014 and completed her internship. But before she started her career, she and her husband, who works as an assistant at a medical office, decided to start a family.

When Brickell View Terrace, a 176-unit building at 940 SW First Avenue, opened its doors in January 2016, Quintero entered a lottery to apply for one of the 100 workforce apartments at the tower, which was developed by the Miami-based Pinnacle Housing Group. Quintero implored all of her relatives to enter the lottery to improve her chances: The initial number of applications reached 7,500.

Getting picked in the lottery was just the first step. To qualify, workforce applicants have to meet strict criteria. Currently, that means earning less than $35,580 for a one-bedroom (730 square feet), $40,680 for a two-bedroom (1,042 square feet) and $45,780 for a three bedroom (1, 290 square feet), according to Brickell View property manager Chris Gonzalez. No more than two people are allowed per bedroom.

Rents are a relative bargain. The cost is $873 for a one-bedroom, $1,054 for a two-bedroom and $1,221 for three-bedroom. The identical units priced at market rate range from $1,850-$1,995 for a one-bedroom, $2,300-$2,615 for a two-bedroom and $2,850-$3,350 for a three-bedroom.

Leases are renewed annually. Workforce tenants can continue to live in their units even if their salary increases, up to 150 percent of the initial income cap. Applications are accepted only when one of the workforce units becomes vacant. The building is full, and management doesn’t keep a waiting list for the workforce units.

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Quintero, who snagged a two-bedroom, two-bath unit for $1,060 per month, said the apartment has been a blessing, allowing her to raise her kids in a neighborhood and lifestyle she wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford.

“Living here gives us the opportunity to save money,” she said. “I feel like I am investing in my kids’ futures. And I love this neighborhood. You have no idea how lucky we are to live here.”

Antonese Dorsin, 37, was living paycheck to paycheck when she lost her home. Now she’s raising her children and living at the Villa Aurora apartments in Little Havana, Florida.

Antonese Dorsin had a tougher road. Every time she got up, life kept knocking her down.

First came the shooting death of the father of one her kids in 2007. Then her own father, who had brought Antonese from Haiti to the U.S. when she was eight, passed away in 2008. His funeral services ate up her meager savings.

Dorsin persevered. She started a catering service from her two-bedroom apartment on NW 69th Street, where she lived with her six children. But business slowed and Dorsin, who was living paycheck to paycheck, was unable to keep up with her $900 monthly rent. She was evicted and wound up in a homeless shelter, where she lived for two months.

In November 2011, Dorsin and her kids were relocated to a modest four-bedroom home in Homestead’s Verde Gardens, an affordable housing project by not-for-profit Carrfour, the Miami-based development firm dedicated to helping the homeless.

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Life finally seemed to stabilize for Dorsin. But 11 months later, her oldest son John drowned in a nearby lake and she was too despondent to continue living at the Homestead home.

“When I lost my son, I was lost,” Dorsin said. “I was destroyed. I was a dead person inside, just a dead body walking. But the Carrfour people did not give up on me. They kept calling and asking ‘Is there anything we can do to help you get better?’”

The answer was yes: A new home at Villa Aurora in Little Havana, a supportive housing building, where Dorsin and her kids were able to move into a four-bedroom apartment for $892 per month.

Seven years later, she’s still there — and has righted her shattered life.

Today she works as a room control supervisor with Marriott Hotels. She hopes some day she can open a restaurant.

Having a solid base is the beginning.

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Antonese Dorsin, 37, hugs her daughter Elizabeth Ferguson, 6, at their home in Little Havana, Florida. MATIAS J. OCNER

“Home is family,” Dorsin said while sitting in her living room along with her four children. (Her oldest has moved out). “Home is your sanctuary. Home is a safe haven, because I have my family to come home to, and my family makes me feel safe.”

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