County will finance incentives to build affordable homes in wealthier areas
By Paola Iuspa
In an effort to level the geographic distribution of affordable housing by attracting such projects to wealthier communities, Miami-Dade County will use public funds to create incentives for residential developers.
The county hopes economic incentives will bring low- and moderate-rate homes to affluent and waterfront communities such as Aventura, Key Biscayne, Coral Gables and Pinecrest.
The median income for a family of four in the county is $43,800 a year, according to county staff.
Most of the homes affordable to families of four earning less than $38,500 a year are in lower-income neighborhoods, often lacking proper community infrastructure. Many of the low-priced homes are in Carol City, Opa-locka, sections of North Miami, Homestead and Florida City, said Patricia Braynon, director of the Miami-Dade Housing Finance Authority. Her group helps developers find public funding to build residential projects at reduced costs often called affordable housing and pass the saving to tenants and homebuyers.
The county's proposed incentive package consists of subsidies of up to 20% of a new project's total cost, excluding developers' fees. The developments will need to be in areas with a low concentration of affordable housing, in a transportation corridor and in a targeted area with a high concentration of low-priced homes, according to a preliminary draft.
Subsidies for property rehabilitation in those areas would be capped at 10%. New projects proposed in certain areas would be eligible for subsidies of up to 10% for buildings being rehabbed.
Other possible incentives include up to 10% tax abatement for five years for new projects in areas with little affordable housing, transportation corridors and targeted areas with a high concentration of low-priced homes.
The county began working on the housing incentive proposal in 1997, when Commissioner Jimmy Morales complained that his district, stretching across eastern Kendall, portions of Coral Gables, Key Biscayne, South Miami, Pinecrest and portions of Miami, was lacking in homes affordable to families who earn less than 80% of the county's median income, said Miami-Dade Assistant County Attorney Terrence Smith.
Commissioner Betty Ferguson's district spanning through Carol City, Crestview, Rolling Oaks, the City of Opa-locka and portions of North Miami Beach and North Miami and Commissioner Katy Sorenson's district, extending from Kendall to Homestead, have the largest concentration of affordable homes, Ms. Braynon said, citing a 2001 report produced by county consultants.
While the county has been trying to move on the proposal for six years, it only succeeded in 2000, when the state Legislature amended a law that prohibited counties and municipalities from creating rules imposing price controls.
"We had to lobby to get the statute amended," he said.
Commissioner Morales said last week that he hoped the incentive package would go before the commission for approval by the end of the year. For now, county staff continues to work on the draft that will be presented to commissioners for discussion.
The working group in charge of revising the package will meet today from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at 111 NW First Street, 18th floor, Conference Room 18-2. The group is headed by Assistant County Manager Barbara Jordan.