Unpacking Miami-Dade Mayor’s $85M Housing Affordability Kit

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Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava (Getty Images)

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava proposed an $85 million spending plan to tackle the housing affordability crisis that seemingly has no end in sight.

The mayor’s HOMES Plan is the latest salvo in a flurry of programs by her administration aimed at alleviating the unprecedented increases in the costs of homebuying and renting. Arguably, Miami-Dade is ground zero in the nation’s affordability predicament, as local incomes have not kept pace with rising housing costs.

Even before the unprecedented rent hikes of the past two years, the county was facing an affordability issue, with more than 250,000 households cost-burdened, according to a 2020 report by Florida International University’s Jorge M. Pérez Metropolitan Center. This means they pay over 30 percent of their income for housing.

Yet, some developers and academics have insisted that recent Miami-Dade measures — such as a 60-day eviction notice period and the Tenant’s Bill of Rights — are counterproductive to solving the affordability issue. Not only do they exclude small landlords, but they could discourage much needed development that would alleviate rising demand and high costs, Enrique Teran, president of the residential board at the Miami Association of Realtors, has said.

HOMES, which is part of Miami-Dade’s proposed $500 million budget for next year, would be bankrolled by federal funds, grants and property taxes, county officials said.

The county commission is expected to vote on the budget on Sept. 20, before the next fiscal year starts on Oct. 1.

The Real Deal dug into the specifics of Levine Cava’s proposal.

In with the old

The proposal would give a boost to an existing program that aims to keep aging, small residential buildings affordable. This so-called “naturally occurring affordable housing” offers below-market rents because of age, condition and location.

Under the existing program, owners of single-family houses, as well as one-unit to 20-unit properties, qualify. Loans can vary from $5,000 per unit, requiring the landlord to keep the home affordable for five years, to $15,000 per unit, requiring the home to stay affordable for at least 20 years. The loans come at no interest rate or charge 3 percent interest.

The loans could be used to boost properties’ energy efficiency.

In addition, HOMES would aim to get more landlords to accept Section 8 vouchers through a one-time $2,000 incentive payment, county officials said.

Finishing what you started

At least $10 million from the HOMES package would go to developers of stalled affordable and workforce projects, county officials said. Rising construction costs caused by supply-chain bottlenecks as well as inflation have hampered completion of such projects.

The financing would be for projects that previously received county-managed funds, and would be available to developers of both apartments for rent and homes for sale.

More rental assistance

Levine Cava wants to expand the band of renters who qualify for financial help. So far, the emergency rental assistance program (ERAP) has been restricted to households that earn no more than 80 percent of the area median income, but HOMES would widen it to those earning up to 140 percent of the AMI, county officials said.

In addition, ERAP would be expanded to households experiencing a 30 percent increase in rent, up from the previous 20 percent hike.

Overall, the county has disbursed $122 million of rental assistance funds to more than 20,000 households since 2020, officials said. Miami-Dade recently received $11 million in ERAP funds, after investing $13 million since April.

Help for homeowners

The county would disburse up to $1,500 per household to cover mortgages, utility bills, property insurance and property taxes, the Miami Herald reported.

Up to 15,000 households could qualify based on their incomes, with the county designating $22.5 million for mortgage help.

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