It’s happening across Miami-Dade, but Hialeah is the epicenter. Within the boundaries of the county’s second-largest municipality, there’s an economic perfect storm brewing in a city known for being the home of many new arrivals.
Income inequality, lack of good-paying jobs, a sputtering economy and scarcity of affordable housing across the county have endangered their American dream via residential exclusion, accentuating the challenges of adapting to the culture, economy and the language of their host country.
Dreams of renting a home, to say nothing of owning one, are dying on the vine in Hialeah. Rents are too expensive in the city. It ranks as the second worst city in America for people looking to rent a home — only Oakland, California ranked worse — according to a survey released last week by the personal finance website WalletHub.
The survey shines the spotlight on Hialeah — the state’s fifth most populous municipality and one of the largest industrial centers — but we know there are other Miami-Dade cities where affordable housing is disappearing.
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Just ask any millennial trying to find housing on a starter salary.
Almost one out of three tenants in Hialeah spends at least 50 percent of their net monthly income on rent, dwarfing the 35 percent maximum recommended as the global standard.
The ratio of the market value of housing and gross annual income is also worrisome. According to the analysis, based on federal statistics, the average household income in Hialeah — long ago dubbed the City of Progress because of its seemingly unending growth — is now barely $29,959 a year, while renting a two-bedroom apartment comes in at $1,250 monthly.
Tenants in other once-affordable communities — Miami Beach, Wynwood, Little Havana, Kendall — are no strangers to this financial squeeze.
In Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, in 2015, residents spent 43.8 percent of their income to pay rent, compared with 28.5 percent before the housing bubble burst, according to Zillow, which tracks the real-estate market.
The dismal rating of Hialeah by WalletHub was based primarily on two variables: the availability of affordable housing within the city and quality of life.
Unemployment and inadequate public resources put toward low-income housing eats away at human progress and social mobility that many of new residents come seeking — in Hialeah and beyond its borders. But if those new arrivals can’t better their lives, by pushing those above them farther up the financial ladder, prosperity stalls — as has occurred in Hialeah and across the county.
A recent Miami-Dade County study blamed this “push up” failure as a reason for stagnating upward mobility.
Hence, there is an urgency for local governments to allocate more funds to aid tenants who cannot afford the exorbitant free-market prices, establishing partnerships with the private sector for the construction and development of rental units at reasonable prices.
Other measures that should be pursued include subsidies and tax incentives to developers.
The strategic approach to an urban development agenda at this time of fat cows must place low-income and affordable housing at the center of political priorities in order to improve the standard of living and welfare of all our communities.