Solving the Housing Crisis | Your South Florida


We have tremendous resources and tremendous
leadership. I think that bringing that together, we can
help to chisel away at what the affordable housing situation is. Everybody wants affordable housing, they just
don’t want it in their backyard. I just wanna have a stable environment to
live where I don’t feel like I’m gonna lose it all of a sudden. From the Keys to the palm beaches. The workforce housing crisis is impacting
residents across South Florida. We look at how we got here and some solutions
that may help ease the strain of living in paradise. Stay with us as we dive into your South Florida
Hi, I’m Pam Giganti, thank you so much for joining us. Welcome to the all new your South Florida,
where we choose one important topic each month that’s having an impact on our local communities. We’ll dive deep into that issue, talk to the
experts and hopefully find some real solutions. This month we are taking a look at South Florida’s
workforce housing crisis. Often used interchangeably, workforce housing
is actually a bit different than affordable housing, which the US Department of Housing
and Development, Urban Development refers to as residents who spend more than 30% of
their income on housing costs and are low income or below the poverty line. Workforce housing is defined as housing that’s
affordable to moderate and middle income residents, spending up to 40% of their income just on
housing costs alone. These are employees integral to a community,
anyone from young professionals to service industry workers and teachers not able to
find housing that’s affordable to them and near where they work. The United Way refers to this population as
cost burdened, or ALICE, which stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. Those often living paycheck to paycheck, one
emergency away from financial crisis. But nowhere in South Florida is this situation
more severe than in Monroe County. The latest United Way report, shows a combined
42% of Keys residents are considered ALICE or fall below the poverty line and can’t afford
basic living expenses. But these numbers still do not include the
impact of 2017’s Hurricane Irma, which made landfall in Cudjoe Key, ravaging much of the
housing in the Middle and the Lower Keys. Now as the two-year anniversary of Hurricane
Irma approaches, we went back down to the Conch Republic to see how the storm’s devastation,
has made the struggle to find affordable and workforce housing even worse. I’ve been here for 30 something years. I don’t know if I’d be able to afford to live
here right now. And I feel bad for people that are, young
families and younger adults that are trying to make their mark here. {Narrator] As Executive Director of Habitat
for Humanity of the Upper Keys, Jack Niedbalski says Hurricane Irma only amplify the region’s
workforce housing crisis. There were some trailer parks in Key Largo
and oceanfront property trailer parks, that those trailers aren’t there anymore, and they’re
not coming back. Developers are gonna take those properties
and do what they can with them. There’s just fewer places for our working
class folks to rent. We still are struggling in the county at all
levels, not just the Sheriff’s Office, police fire-rescue, teachers, plumbers, electricians,
carpenters, restaurant, I don’t care what kind of work you have, you cannot get and
keep staff. {Narrator] And here’s the reason why, with
fewer affordable units available for people to live in, many workers are forced to relocate
or commute from the mainland. That leaves employers like Monroe County Sheriff
Rick Ramsay, scrambling to find a solution. Probably 65 to 70% of my police officers and
staff that work in the Upper Keys , actually live in Dade County and commute into work. We’re working on right now doing a 43-men
bunk room build-out in Key West, till we have a bunk room for the men and women who work
at the main jail. So they come to Keya from Miami to Key West. They can work their shift, sleep over and
then go back home. If we don’t make it somehow reasonable for
them to get here, they’re not gonna come down. People have said well, we can bust people
down from the mainland to the Upper Keys for my business. It’s not an ideal situation, it’s really not. Oftentimes people come, think it’s gonna be
like they’re on vacation, and then when they realize how hard it is to live here, they
don’t stay. {Narrator] Maureen Dunleavy is the Vice President
of Guidance/Care Center, a behavioral health care provider in the Keys. She says since Irma, it’s been tough keeping
centers staffed. Since January of this year, out of 120 employees,
we’ve had 30 resignations, with about 80% of people relocating, If 30 people is what
I’ve lost since January, that’s what one fourth of my staff and a lot of times, employers
won’t interview people for positions unless they’re physically here because the chances
of you finding someone that is a good fit, and then actually finding housing have that
pan out and in a realistic timeline is difficult. {Narrator] Making matters worse is a 1970s
law known as ROGO or the Rate of Growth Ordinance that classified the Keys as an area of critical
concern, and it gave the state oversight on development, the reason? Safety. The state wanted to keep population levels
in the Keys from exploding, so we could ensure the safe evacuation of all residents within
24 hours in the event of a storm. ROGO also halts any new development in the
Keys as of 2023. That’s just a little over three years from
now. That’s simple economics. Once that happens, prices are gonna continue
to go up. And that means the rental pricing is gonna
go up. So there’s kind of a dash to try and get whatever
building you can done in affordable and it is the market rate world. {Narrator] This looming building cap, has
left Monroe County with up to 10,000 underdeveloped lots and pending lawsuits from landowners
not able to build. The year after Irma’s devastating landfall,
the state approved a plan to grant an added 1300 new building permits for workforce rentals. They did so by bypassing the ROGO mandate,
forcing renters to evacuate some 48 hours before a storm. So far Islamorada, Marathon and Key West,
have all voiced interest in the initiative. But not everyone is on board. There’s some citizens that are against it. And I understand the other side and there’s
you know, there’s there’s pro-growth, and there’s anti-growth. I mean, we don’t want any more growth because
we’re built out as it is. And I’m not saying that there’s no validity
to that. It’s just everybody wants affordable housing,
they just don’t want it in their backyard. {Narrator] And while all this has yet to be
decided, some residents need help now. Single mom Sandra Murphy has called the Keys
home for nine years and works multiple jobs to make ends meet. I mean, I’ve hustled no doubt. And if you wanna be here and you want to stay
here, you gotta hustle. And you gotta be willing to work hard. I work here in this beautiful boutique, but
I also drive a school bus and I have other jobs that I do like petsit, babysit. It’s like I’ve done everything here. I have a daughter here that’s in school. It’s a beautiful place and a great place to
raise a kid here. It’s safe, I know she’s safe, she’s got wonderful
friends. And this community has been so wonderful to
me, because people have stepped in and been like, hey, I’ve got this, can you do this? Can you help me? and I’ll pay you this. And it’s because word of mouth and we’re so
tight knit here, that it’s everybody just knows you and they, ohs, call Sandra, she’ll
help you. {Narrator] But even with an outpouring of
support from friends and neighbors, Sandra’s future is in constant limbo. She’s applying for a home with Habitat for
Humanity and hopes of gaining some stability. I am living in a house that is for sale. And I’ve been like looking around, trying
to find other places to rent but everything has just gotten so high. I just wanna have a stable environment to
live where I don’t feel like I’m gonna lose it all of a sudden. {Narrator] But the applications for Habitat
homes, far outweighs the supply. Habitat for Humanity of the Upper Keys is
building some 16 units and has been overwhelmed with requests. To qualify hopeful homeowners must meet certain
criteria. Applicants must show need, such as paying
too much for current housing. They must invest sweat equity, physically
helping to build their potential home and they must have a combined income of at least
$54,000 and be able to repay a no-interest mortgage. The people that we’re putting in these homes
are you know, are the bank tellers and, the maybe the restaurant manager or the firefighter
that’s tired of commuting from Miami to come to work every day. And the school teachers and all those people. Those are the people that were really addressing. So we’ll probably end up with 70 or 80 applications
for those 16 units. That’s the hardest thing that we do, is have
to tell somebody no, that’s this close, it’s tough. {Narrator] And all of this is taking a mental
toll on the community with an increase in people seeking help. We have up twice as many people that are coming
in, in crisis or, you know, are dealing with detox issues, than previously, our suicide
rate in Monroe County has doubled since Hurricane Irma. {Narrator] In 2018, the Keys had the highest
suicide rate, in Florida with 35 suicides, a stark contrast from previous years with
renters at the greatest risk. So if things don’t change, what’s gonna happen? You know, we’ve got the suicide rate increasing,
we’ve got, you know, staff that are leaving, how are we gonna meet the need? Right now we’re working on some affordable
housing projects. We’re trying to focus on private partnerships. We’re talking with the cities and counties. How we can do a build-out. We’re talking with Habitat for Humanity. We need to partner with the with the municipalities
so we can invest the money in the structure and create a sustainable opportunity for people
to live here affordably for many years, raise their family and become part of the community. If I don’t get the house, I’m probably gonna
move. At some point you have to say is that is it
really worth it? And while Monroe County officials try to figure
out what will work best for their residents, others across South Florida are also looking
for solutions. One of Miami-Dade’s biggest rental property
owners, United Property Management has come up with a plan to help both educators and
active duty military members. And then up in the palm beaches, The Office
of Housing and Economic Stability, has launched a workforce housing program, offering both
rental units and units for sale. My name is Lesley George, and I’m the Housing
Liaison for Palm Beach County. We want to make sure that the developers,
are aware that when they do come into the county and they wanna build any developments,
over 10 units, that there are some set aside for the workforce. It’s a partnership between the developer and
Palm Beach County. They can choose to buy out but we’re not necessarily
interested in the buyout. We’re interested in the units because the
more units we have, we can service our customers. With the workforce housing program, we do
have two tiers. We have the rental component, and we do have
the down payment assistance component. The salary ranges from about 45,000 and it
goes up to 105, and some change, but what we say that’s household income. In terms of rentals for workforce, we have
over 900 units for rental, and for the down payment assistance, we currently have 93 units. And we have 25 homes that are under contract. We do an mandatory orientation twice a month. And that’s really to get the potential homeowners
educated on exactly what is workforce housing. The need is great because unite our orientations,
we could have anywhere from 89 people registered, and we do our orientations twice a month. My name is Luis Mata, and I am the Community
Liaison for United Property Management. We are very excited to announce our UPM Cares
About Educators and UPM Cares About our Military. This is a program available to all faculty
and staff and employees of Miami-Dade County Public Schools throughout Dade county at all
of our properties. The traditional typical requirement of rental
is that you have a security deposit in the first and last month, which depending on the
rental amount can be several thousand dollars. What we’re willing to offer to them is no
deposit payment and no administrative fees. So it’s almost a sign and drive, if you will. Part of the rationale or the reasoning behind
this is through our involvement with the school system. We recognize that there is a need and specifically
wanna keep our educators in our community. The active military program is something that
we’re extremely proud of. We understand the need of active military
personnel. We understand the cost of moving that it takes
to come from outside of the state most of the time, it can be a tremendous burden, and
sometimes a detractor. It’s very similar, no down payment, no application
fees. What I certainly hope that this program encourages
is dialogue and action. We have tremendous resources and tremendous
leadership. I think that bringing that together, we can
help to chisel away at what the affordable housing situation is, and come up with solutions. And we’ll have more information on these project
on both Facebook and Twitter @YourSouthFL. And here to talk more about possible solutions
to South Florida’s workforce housing crisis, is Sandra Veszi Einhorn, Executive Director
of the Coordinating Council of Broward, which works collaboratively to address the needs
of the community and Anthony Williams, licensed Realtor and Special Projects Director for
the research firm, Bendixen and Amanda International, Anthony coordinates the annual Miami-Dade
residential real estate study in partnership with the Miami Herald Thanks to both of you
for being here. We really appreciate it. Thank you for having me. Thank you All right, Sandra, let’s start with
you. Why don’t you go ahead and tell us a little
bit about what you guys do with the Coordinating Council of Broward and what really some of
the biggest issues are that you’re trying to help tackle. Great, thanks, so you you mentioned ALICE
so the Coordinating Council of Broward really rallied around the ALICE report and thought
okay, what sort of systemic issues are really relevant to ALICE families and of course,
housing came up to the top. And what we realized was while everyone knew
that we had an affordable housing crisis, there really wasn’t necessarily consensus
among government, business and nonprofit on how to address it. So the coordinating council has been working
to bring all of those stakeholders together to say, okay, here are sort of the best practice
models from around the country. What do we agree on? And let’s move forward with that. And then things that we don’t agree on, let’s
sort of shelf it for now. And so we’ve done quite a bit in that space,
knowing that everyone’s on board and we’re all moving forward together. Anthony, let’s tackle a little bit about what’s
going on in Miami-Dade County. What are some of the problems that you’ve
seen with the affordable housing and workforce housing crisis in Miami-Dade? Well, among the biggest challenges I’ve seen,
and that most people don’t really consider is that a lot of the affordable housing issue
is not evident. People tend to figure things out. And so if you’re not able to afford a place
on your own, you end up with multiple families living together, you end up with adult children
still living at home. And so you don’t find homelessness, but that
doesn’t mean there isn’t still need. In Miami-Dade County, we really need an overarching
comprehensive approach to affordable housing. But because of the way our governmental systems
are structured between cities and counties and state funding, it’s really difficult to
put together a plan that will really address the problem county-wide. Yeah, and you’ve kind of worked on both ends
of this issue, haven’t you? ‘Cause you’ve worked on the political side,
you worked for a congressman before, so you got to see it from that angle and that approach,
and now you’re doing more of the kind of public policy side. So how can we kind of bring some of this together,
what kind of dialogue needs to happen so that everybody’s really sort of on the same page? ‘Cause I think something you said that’s really
important is, people don’t see it? Right. You know, folks are figuring it out. So it’s not as if there’s this big homeless
encampment in front of City Hall, and somebody says we need to solve this problem, right? So.. Well and that really is it. The primary issue is galvanizing the appropriate
resources and political will because so much of the problem is under the radar, a lot of
times this gets pushed to the side a little bit. One of the things that I’ve seen and you mentioned
that we do the annual real estate study for the Miami Herald, we actually asked real estate
professionals. what is the best part of Miami-Dade County
for retiree to live in? Just as an example. The number two answer was to leave town. [Pam] Wow. Because it just isn’t affordable. It isn’t sustainable for somebody on a fixed
income to rent something or forget about buying something in Miami-Dade County. These are the types of things that policymakers,
sometimes need to be slapped in the face with so that they understand the urgency of the
situation. And Sandra address that too. We were talking earlier about seniors and
housing and we talked about condo conversions. And we talked about, seniors who actually
own their condo outright, but then they face these issues when it comes around to maybe
they have to upgrade and they just, they can’t, right? Right, right. Yeah, I think people really take for granted. You know, I think housing is is nuance in
a lot of ways, you know, to Anthony’s point. It’s not as obvious as some other, human service
issues or economic development issues that we have. You’re gonna pay rent, you’re gonna pay it
first, but then you need to think about if someone’s cost-burdened and they’re spending
all their money on rent, what are they not spending money on? Food, health care, childcare. And so specifically with seniors when they’re
on a very tight budget, you’ve retired, in the last recession, a lot of our retirees
spent all that they had. And so now they’re faced with they have their
budget, but if you’ve got even just a little something that turns that budget upside down,
how do you come back from that? [Pam] Sure. And so a lot of our seniors are starting to
feel that now with the 40-year assessments on buildings across Broward County and probably
across South Florida. Now, you also partnered with or got information
from the FIU Metropolitan Center. Yes. So talk about those numbers and what you’ve
discovered. So the county commissions, they report every
five years from the FIU Metropolitan Center, it was just completed a couple months ago. And some of the most startling statistics
I think are the fact that, less than 13% of Broward County households, can afford the
median price home. So that means 87% of Broward County households
cannot afford the median price home, and so… [Pam] Think about that for a moment Yeah,
let that resonate [Pam] That’s a large nu… Yeah I’ve let that simmer for since reading
the report. [Pam] Yeah, think about that yeah But then
again, now they’re renting. And when you’re renting and rents are as high
as they are with, no change in sight. I mean, rents are only increasing, everyday
we see a new article talking about it, you really again, have to start to think about
the quality of life. [Pam] Yeah. And the economic sustainability, right? Because at the end of the day, the affordable
housing crisis, really is an economic development issue. And it really affects our ability as a region
and individual counties to be economically sustainable. Whether you’re a low wage worker or a middle
wage worker. We also find in that study, that over half
of Broward County workers earn between 40 and 60% of median income. So our economy [Pam] Wow. is really reliant on those service
sector jobs that we need every day to be able to be a destination that people around the
world wanna come to. You know, I always affectionately say, I live
where you vacation. [Pam] Right. But that that dream is really becoming harder
for workers every day. [Pam] Yeah and Anthony talk about that a little
bit, because we were speaking earlier about all the people who come to South Florida to
live because we don’t have a state income tax. So it becomes really attractive for people. But what happens is, is we just have this
bigger, bigger population, and everybody is trying to look for affordable places to live,
right? Well and it cuts in a variety of ways. There’s the long standing joke that the official
bird of Miami-Dade County is the crane. So you would think with all of this construction
of housing taking place that it would take some of the pressure off, but it actually
exacerbates the situation because much of that product is being built for upper income
people who don’t live here. So you might see a luxury condo go up and
if you drive by it at night, 70% of it’ll be dark because they’re only here for a week
or two a year or a month, a year. Meanwhile, people who live here, 12 months
out of the year don’t have anywhere to live. So talk about what developers can do. I mean, there really needs to be a partnership. But talking, we heard from Luis Mata in the
piece earlier, talking about United Property Management Cares and what they’re trying to
do to get people into their units. But it costs money to build anything here
in South Florida because of building codes, because of land values, right? Yeah, but there’s absolutely no way for a
private sector developer to build something that is affordable for the average person
in Miami-Dade County because of land value because of construction costs. The only way to make product affordable is
to have some level of government involvement. You’re either providing subsidies to build
a building, or you’re providing subsidies for people to live there. And there are sources of revenue available
to provide that subsidy, but a lot of times they are choke holes, choke points in the
funding stream. One of the things that’s been in the news
a lot is the fact that the state has a Sadowski Trust Fund specifically for the Construction
of affordable housing. And yet, year after year you see a large portion
of that money, siphoned off to go into general revenue to balance the budget, leaving less
money aside for the thing it was purposed for. Right and then so let’s that segues into this
housing trust it was approved by boaters in Broward County, overwhelmingly approved. Yes. Talk about that money. So I think going back to the fact that it
was overwhelmingly approved, we live in a political environment where everything is
so polarizing. And so I think just in the fact that 73% of
voters voted in favor, really shows that this isn’t a blue or red issue that everyone is
feeling it whether you’re a business owner, or you’re a resident or you’re someone in
between. And so really what the trust fund was, it
was a mechanism. You said the S word, Sadowski. You know in Broward County, it’s sort of a
dirty word because we really do miss out on a lot of those funds that are desperately
needed to address our affordable housing crisis. And so the trust one in Broward was created
so that it can’t be Sadowski. And so that any commitment from the current
county commission and they have certainly increased their commitment, which has been
fantastic goes into the trust fund and it’s a lockbox. It cannot be used for any other purpose, other
than housing. It’s in our charter, which is why it went
to voter referendum. So there’s no way no how those dollars that
were budgeted for housing, would go to anything other than housing. And I think that that also creates an extra
sense of security for developers to see that we have local government that is taking a
leadership position, is putting money towards it and recognizes that at the end of the day,
affordable housing is market rate housing with a subsidy. As Anthony mentioned, you either subsidize
it on the front end to bring down the cost or you subsidize it on the back end. [Pam] Right. The only other area that local and county
government could really be more proactive, is that the other input in terms of cost is
land value. And there are still pockets of Miami-Dade
County where there is land available that either falls under city control, county control
or a wide variety of nonprofit organizations, where potentially more density could be built. Well, and we were talking about that. And we’ve actually had Robin Bachin from the
University of Miami on the show before, talking about this land map that they have, which
basically looks at the county and find all the parcels that are available possibly for
development, right? What do we see with that? Because there’s some are untapped. Like, maybe a church owns it or right? And there could be some sort of creative way
to maybe build on that land and put some affordable units on it, correct? So yeah, I mean, my talking points from the
get-go has been again, there’s no one silver bullet to address affordable housing. It’s how many tools can we fit into the toolkit
and those tools have to come from nonprofits, it has to come from the private sector, it
has to come from government and also faith based. In Broward, we don’t have that comprehensive
tool that Miami has yet, but there are a number of faith based organizations that have land
and we’re hoping increasingly to be able to engage them in conversation and see how much
of that land might be suitable for affordable housing development and to build affordable
housing while also changing the stigma, right? Because when people think about affordable
housing, you think, oh, I don’t want those people, [Pam] Right. And so I… But its teachers and police officers, its
people in your community, I’m always quick to ask Yeah. who are those people? those people, right. Because those people are, it’s our workforce,
it’s our seniors, it’s our veterans, it’s people that are just graduating, [Pam] So… it’s you, it’s me, [Pam] It’s the it’s everybody. [Pam] Yeah Thank you guys so much, really
appreciate the conversation. Thank you. Thank you. And thank you for joining us this month. We hope you’ll join us again in October. We’ll see you again next time.

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