Affordable housing for all

No doubt the tide has turned on the South Florida luxury real-estate market. Just look at downtown Miami, Brickell, Wynwood and Midtown. Once again, the state bird is quickly becoming the construction crane.

That’s great news for developers, for the property tax base, for Realtors. There’s a boom, and foreign investors are buying even before construction is complete.

As we often learn painfully down the road, there’s a human toll to all this growth and construction as people are displaced from neighborhoods being revitalized. As they try to find affordable apartments elsewhere, the rental market tightens, choking those who live on fixed incomes or barely get by on minimum wage.

Recent studies reveal that it’s harder to find affordable housing in South Florida than in almost any other big city in the country. The truth is that in the Miami-Dade area, renters making the median annual income of about $49,121 will spend nearly half their salary paying the rent.

And few affordable rental units are going up because the local housing market favors expensive, luxury construction.

The Miami Coalition for the Homeless — which works hard to prevent homelessness but also helps pick up the pieces when people can no longer financially hold on — recognizes the growing crisis in rental housing in Miami-Dade.

Here are the group’s dire figures: There are 130,000 extremely low-income households in Miami-Dade. At least 50,000 of these families are renters who use about 50 percent of their income for housing. That means a lost job, a major car repair or an illness will send them tumbling into financial ruin and likely into homelessness.

So the group is kick-starting an innovative collaboration to create more decent affordable housing for the working poor.

“We believe that by providing safe, decent housing that these families can afford we can prevent homelessness before it even begins,” Bobbie Ibarra, the coalition’s executive director, told the Editorial Board.

The coalition is to be commended for taking a leadership role and launching a Homes for All initiative, which will seek out investors, philanthropists, developers and public entities to pool their resources to stimulate development to fill this housing gap.

The idea is to use the generated funding to rehabilitate existing properties or build new units of affordable rental housing with payments.

On May 6, the coalition is hosting a Homes for All Housing Summit at Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Campus and all potential stakeholders are invited.

By tackling this problem, the coalition is being proactive and performing a great community service. “This is an issue not about finding someone to fix this problem, but about us fixing it,” Ana Castilla, community development manager at TD Bank, told the Board. We couldn’t agree more.

The coalition faces some obstacles. Among them: Maintaining current local, state and federal funding; attracting developers; finding innovative sources of funding and pushing to modify zoning codes to ease affordable housing development.

The group’s goal is to create an additional 1,500 housing units for low-income households in 10 years. That might not sound like much, but it’s a hefty start.

We look forward to attendees emerging from the housing summit with creative solutions and innovative partnerships.