Report finds homeownership ‘unattainable’ for most residents in Little Haiti

Sunset Palm Villas Condominium on Northwest 84th Street in Little Haiti.
Sunset Palm Villas Condominium on Northwest 84th Street in Little Haiti. Miami Herald File

The rising costs of living and housing, coupled with sluggish wage growth across Miami, are making home ownership unattainable for most low-and middle-income residents in Little Haiti, a recent housing analysis found.

In its December report, the Haitian American Community Development Coalition, or HACDC, found that when compared to the rest of the city, Little Haiti had higher rates of poverty, unemployment and a diminishing housing stock, the report found between 2000 and 2013.

The housing nonprofit’s market analysis reports that 26 percent of the homes in Little Haiti are owner occupied. And most residents who typically rent are tight on money to save. HACDC President Sam Diller said, while tourism and the service-industries, for example, were among the biggest in the city, the jobs typically don't pay well.

“If people don’t have income, they can’t buy houses,” Diller said. “Real estate is a huge driver in this economy but it doesn’t employ a lot of people. You just have a handful of people making a million dollars on each transactions. It’s a tale of two cities — the haves and have nots.”

October’s housing index report shows that prices in Miami — and nationally — have steadily been on the rise over the last year. Some homes even surpassed their pre-crash 2006 peaks. According to the real estate website Zillow, home values in Little Haiti have increased almost 25 percent this year. Experts from Zillow predict prices will continue to rise 0.7 percent within the next year.

Based on the only ten sales from Sept. 15 to Dec. 15, median-priced homes in the neighborhood sold for $200,750. Government agencies and banks typically suggest a household spend no more than 30 percent of its income on housing.

But here’s the kicker, according to HACDC's report: Little Haiti’s unemployment rate rose from 17 percent to 23 percent between 2000 to 2013, and the poverty rate, at 48 percent, is substantially higher than other parts of the city, so who can afford to buy?

When HACDC and Florida International University’s Metropolitan Center looked at changes in household income over 13 years, they found that the number of households with incomes greater than $100,000 increased by 71 percent.

Diller said a lot of the new growth stems from artists and galleries getting priced out of the nearby arts district and moving north into the what people have began calling “the new Wynwood.”

“Gentrification is a hot topic in the community,” Diller said. “There are huge negative implications from gentrification. On the other hand, there are a lot of positive things, too.”

Among the positives: mixed-income housing and job growth.

“Gentrification needs to be managed,” HACDC Deputy Director Lynda Charles said. “But the nonprofit is the only entity that cares about managing gentrification."

Charles said the city’s for-profit developers build in the neighborhood and leave soon after, not having much else at stake.

She said transitional neighborhoods like Little Haiti can be difficult to manage because on one hand the area isn’t overly poor or crime ridden, but on the other hand the area isn’t stable enough to create its own middle-class wealth.

HACDC offered a few solutions in its report, including encouraging home ownership through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and government subsidies, reallocation of resources and providing affordable rental options so families can save.

Related stories from Miami Herald