Letters to the Editor

Miami’s community redevelopment agencies are failing

I read Fred Grimm’s Jan. 10 column, Mothers cope with life in wrong place, at the wrong time. It’s truly sad — and even sadder when you realize that Miami has two Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) districts that by law are mandated to alleviate slums and blight and provide affordable housing: The Southeast Overtown Park West (SEOPW) CRA district and the Omni CRA district.

For years, these two CRAs have rolled over millions of ad valorem tax dollars provided by county and city general funds to the CRAs’ trust funds. They have not provided as much affordable housing within their districts as could be provided to give those living in slum housing and dangerous neighborhoods an alternative, affordable place to live.

What is even sadder is that on Dec. 29, the SEOPW CRA gave the developer of Worldcenter a rebate of increased ad valorem taxes it will pay to the city and county that will be deposited into the SEOPW CRA trust fund for the alleviation of slums and blight and the provision of affordable housing.

According to the back-up material for the board meeting, and the comments of Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, the developer is getting the rebate of as much as $90 million, not because it would not otherwise build the project, but because it is being rewarded with a share of the tax revenue created as a reward for building the project.

If you look at the Omni CRA, you will see that it increased its subsidy of the Performing Arts Center from $1.4 million a year when first proposed to now more than $5 million a year to substitute Omni CRA district property taxpayers’ ad-valorem property tax payment increases and then deposited into the Omni CRA trust fund.

Instead that money is used to substitute for the tourist taxes that are now diverted to pay the debt service on Marlins Park.

Since the Federal Housing Act of 1949, American families have been promised a decent home and a suitable living environment. Sadly, Miami-Dade County, the city of Miami and the CRAs have not lived up to this 65-year-old promise.

Whether it is with pass-through federal Housing and Urban Development funding, state, local or CRA funding, there are a substantial number of people employed to work on this promise to the poor. In the case of the failure to provide a decent home and a suitable living environment, the buck stops with the all the elected officials in Miami-Dade County, its municipalities and CRAs.

Frank Schnidman, executive director, Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton