Homestead wants no part of county's affordable housing
By Charlotte Libov
County Mayor Carlos Alvarez' order targeting 650 county-owned acres at Homestead Air Reserve Base for affordable housing could jeopardize the base's active status, say Homestead officials.
"One of the issues that the government looks at when they are deciding on base closure is residential encroachment," said Homestead Mayor Roscoe Warren. "To sustain that base in years to come, we can't have residential encroachment."
"Affordable housing is an issue that is countywide," said Steve Shiver, chairman of the Homestead Air Reserve Joint Land Use Study, which is looking at how to use surplus land at the base. "This is not just a South Dade issue. This is an issue that should be taken up by the length of the county - not forced or finessed in one area of the county,"
Mr. Shiver, former Homestead mayor and county manager, said he is "aggravated" by the proposal to target the base for housing. Mr. Alvarez said rising costs of homes here are "exceeding the financial reach of many low- to moderate-wage workers."
Mr. Alvarez directed County Manager George Burgess on Feb. 10 to list all county-owned land of an acre or more and analyze "zoning, environmental, costs, etc.," add affordable housing. His directive referred included more than 650 acres in the base "that could be used to provide housing relief."
According to Mr. Alvarez, $137.7 million is allocated to preserve and create affordable housing through the Building Better Communities General Obligation Bond.
Homestead Manager Curt Ivy said the issue is sensitive for the city.
"We speak from experience," Mr. Ivy said. "After Hurricane Andrew, they built income-restricted apartments and people were sent here. Many of them didn't have jobs or transportation. It really became a management challenge for the city."
Homestead has a "pretty large" amount of financially assisted housing, Mr. Ivy said, and officials are concerned about a large influx of jobless people.
"If you're talking about housing for firemen or teachers, that's one thing. We would support that for sure," Mr. Ivy said. "That's not what the concern would be. If you're talking about people who are unemployed or on welfare, that can negatively impact an area."
Mr. Warren said he is concerned about impact on the Air Force base.
"We have one of the best training facilities now, so what we've been doing for years is to make sure there is no residential encroachment of that base," he said. "Any encroachment around that base could potentially be problematic, and it's something we need to keep in mind as we look at sustaining that base for a long, long time."
Though the base is not as active as it was before Andrew, he said, "over the past 10 years it's been built up" and it is now an important strategic location for the Department of Defense.
Homestead is willing to help with affordable housing, Mr. Ivy said, but doesn't want to be unfairly burdened. "Everyone has to have a place to live. We'll do our fair share. It just has to be distributed fairly."