Florida was rated 47th worst state for teachers, according to a 2017 study by personal finance company WalletHub. Basically, teachers are underpaid ,and housing where many of them could afford to live barely exists anymore in Miami-Dade County.
With that reality, the county and the school district are pursuing an idea that a few other cities are exploring: Build affordable
residential units on school property and let faculty live there, if they want.
Actually, it’s not a bad idea.
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A test case for the social experiment is on the drawing board. It calls for a new middle school on Brickell area for Southside Elementary to have a floor devoted to residential units, and several
more reserved for parking and the classrooms on top.If that works, Miami-Dade wants a full-fledged housing complex next to Phillis Wheatley Elementary in Miami, with as many as 300 apartments going up on the campus just north of downtown. Public-school teachers would get priority for the apartments, then the rest of the employees. Leftover units could be rented to people outside the school system.
The buildings would be designed so that residents and the school populations couldn’t mix during the school day. Students and residents would enter in different ground-floor lobbies and use different elevators.
But after hours, the residential and educational facilities could share some recreational facilities like the playing fields.
See the possibilities?
This is one of the more original proposals the county and the school district have come up with in years. Schools have a lot of land; and the county, which, along with many municipalities has allowed a lot of affordable residential neighborhoods to be luxury-condominiumed out of existence.
The school district, the county’s largest employee, has cited the lack of affordable housing as a recruiting hurdle. This kills two birds with one stone.
True, veteran teachers may not be gung-ho on the idea, or those with families, but we bet young millennial teachers, especially those just
out of college would jump at the chance to totally give up on a commute.
Miami-Dade’s housing arm is ready to steer federal, state and local funding and tax breaks to the projects. And this approach has the potential to infuse some neighborhoods with new life, spurring economic growth.
The plan is for the school district to build the Southside complex with funding for the housing component from Miami-Dade and a private developer would bid on the Wheatley complex, using the government incentives in exchange for keeping rents below the standard market rates.
Miami-Dade is in talks with Housing and Urban Development, the federal agency that oversees some of the county’s affordable-housing projects.
JPMorgan Chase gave a $215,000 grant to the nonprofit Miami Homes For All to help develop the Wheatley plan, the company announced. And already a downtown tax district, Miami’s Omni Community Redevelopment Area, with a budget of more than $50 million a year, in January voted to send dollars to the Wheatley project.
The concept would add Miami to a growing list of cities across the country, including Denver, Colorado, where schools are using their own real estate to provide more affordable housing to their workforces.
The county and the school district, led by Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Superintendent Alberto Carvalho should be commended for allowing this project to go from the drawing board to real experiment.