Miami to consider housing program for returning vets
By Deserae del Campo
An affordable-housing pilot program that would require developers of big projects to set aside lower-priced condos for veterans returning home from war was presented to the Miami City Commission last week.
A volunteer task force suggested that when the city grants permits to build 50 or more residential units, 1% of the units should be set aside for qualified military personnel identified by the city's Community Development program.
Those reserved units should be at least a one-bedroom, the task force recommends, and should be sold to veterans at $236,000 or less.
In August, Commissioner Joe Sanchez convened the task force of five volunteers to create a proposal to find housing solutions for veterans.
The task force reported "that those who accepted the call to military service since Sept. 11, 2001, have returned to a city where real estate prices have increased so dramatically that many of those brave men and women are unable to afford to live in a community they left to defend."
"There are 8,500 men and women in the service coming home to a city that has changed," said Col. Lettie Bien, a member of the task force who has more than 29 years of military service, including duty in Iraq. "We looked at what was already available to veterans coming back from deployment and what could be a unique housing element to the City of Miami."
The affordable housing for veterans is not limited to military personal returning from Iraq or Afghanistan. Vietnam veterans can also apply to the program, said Col. Bien, who is president and CEO of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce.
The task force recommended that developers that reserve a minimum of five units for veterans would receive a bonus Floor Area Ratio of .25 for development. Floor Area Ratio is the total floor area on a lot divided by the lot area. On a plot of 20,000 square feet, that bonus would add 5,000 square feet that could be developed.
The proposal suggests priority be given to disabled veterans and those who work within the city's government. Formally retired or current military personnel should also be considered, the report suggests.
"This is one step in the affordable housing element for our military personal overseas that are coming back to a different city and a different county," Commissioner Sanchez said.
The pilot program is proposed to last for a year, with city commissioners reviewing results to determine if it is effective.
The task force also proposes the initiative be included in the city's Miami 21 rezoning master plan that now is being created.
"The next step," said Col. Bien, "is now what the City of Miami is going to do with this project."