CRAs project $340 million for projects
By Deserae del Campo
The Omni and Southeast Overtown/Parkwest Community Redevelopment Agencies may receive about $340 million in tax-increment money to help fund projects for affordable housing, infrastructure needs and historical designation and rehabilitation.
The projection is based on extending the lives of both redevelopment agencies to 2027, said Frank Rollason, recently departed executive director of the agencies and current candidate for Miami's District 2 commissioner seat. He said "the property taxes, from both the city and the county" will generate $340 million in tax-increments funds that can be used within the agencies for redevelopment projects.
The $340 million estimate is based on projects that are coming out of the ground right now, said Mr. Rollason. "Those projects are happening. The permits have been issued and construction has begun."
Mr. Rollason said the money can be used to improve the overall infrastructure in both redevelopment agencies, which would enable developers to build affordable housing and developments from the ground up.
"Once the infrastructure is taken care of such as water and sewer, underground electricity and things like that it will help to really lift that area up and allow developers to build in workforce housing and affordable homes," he said.
"Affordable housing is the biggest issue we are facing right now," said Michelle Spence-Jones, city commissioner and chairperson of the Community Redevelopment Agencies, during a meeting Monday. "With the tax-increment dollars, we are using 50% for affordable housing, 40% for infrastructure needs and 10% for historic preservation."
The fate of both redevelopment agencies is up to the Miami-Dade County Commission, which must decide whether to extend the agencies' lives to 2027. Once the CRAs are extended, the city can hire an underwriting firm to sell bonds and begin planning construction of the projects.
The county is now negotiating with city officials over extending the lives of both agencies after talks turned sour over arrangements for repaying a US Department of Housing and Urban Development loan for Parrot Jungle Island.
Commissioner Tomás Regalado requested a strong lobbying force to get the county to extend the lives of the agencies.
"It's a shame to have Parrot Jungle tied to the CRA," he said. "It should have never come to that at all."
In total, the Southeast Overtown/Parkwest Community Redevelopment Agency can receive $128 million in tax-increment funds, and $212 million will be available for the Omni Redevelopment Agency, according to documents relating to the bonding capacity of each CRA.
Since May, the agencies' committee members have met to accept and evaluate about 20 projects requesting tax-increment funds to help support affordable housing, development and infrastructure projects within both redevelopment agencies' boundaries.
Maefield Development is asking for $200 million to help construct City Square Retail Center, but city commissioners have expressed concern over such a subsidy. Maefield, however, projects that its project would return $181 million in tax revenue to the CRA districts.
Last week, committee members graded the projects from highest to lowest — a score of 12 being the highest and 0 the lowest.
Maefield received a seven, while projects such as restoration to the Freedom Tower and infrastructure and streetscape projects for Overtown received higher marks at 11.
The redevelopment agencies receive tax-increment funding, which derives from increased taxable values above the property valuations that existed when the agencies were created.
Tax revenue from development and property values within the area in excess of the base year value are deposited in the agencies' trust fund and can be spent only in the redevelopment area for construction projects that will improve the quality of life for both areas.
The Southeast Overtown/Parkwest agency is hoping residential development along Biscayne Boulevard will help revive areas of Overtown to the west with the help of tax-increment funding.
Commissioner Spence-Jones said the bond money should be used for affordable housing and "infrastructure projects for the whole community such as rehabilitation along North Bayshore Drive, Northeast Third Avenue and the Overtown Folklife District."
For Overtown, she said, "the majority of those bonds should focus on affordable housing. We have empty lots in that area, and the vision is to really connect the community with green space project that will improve the quality of life."
"We have got infrastructure needs without a doubt," said Linda Haskins, District 2 city commissioner. "There are vacant parcels that extend to the FEC Railway. We need these long-term bonds to help out with affordable and workforce housing."
"The city is losing its rental housing so we need to make provisions for the middle class as well," said Ms. Haskins. "There are residents that can't afford to buy in the city, so as we lose our middle class we end up with the very wealthy and the very poor and that is no way for a city to survive."