MHFA and Shimberg Center for Housing Studies, University of Florida, launch updated report on students experiencing homelessness

In the 2017-2018 school year, 95,873 children and youth in Florida were identified as experiencing homelessness. These students were temporarily doubled up others or staying in hotels and motels, shelters, transitional housing, and unsheltered locations. Florida’s shortage of affordable housing is the root cause of student’s housing instability--a problem exacerbated by catastrophic hurricanes in recent years.

These findings come from Students Experiencing Homelessness in Florida: Updates and Solutions, which provides data on child and youth homelessness and a set of policy recommendations to address it. See also fact sheets on student homelessness for 23 Florida counties.

The report is a follow-up to Homelessness and Education in Florida: Impacts on Children and Youth, released by the Shimberg Center and Miami Homes for All in 2017. Both reports find that housing instability and homelessness are increasing among young people in Florida, and that students without stable housing lag behind their housed peers in school.

The study was made possible by JPMorgan Chase & Co.

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Miami Homes For All
How much vacant housing is there in Florida? You asked, we answered

“When it comes to building new affordable housing, however, most real estate developers will cite “scarcity” of vacant land as one of the biggest hurdles in Miami-Dade County.

However, a new mapping tool unveiled last spring by the University of Miami showed 500 million square feet of vacant or underutilized land scattered across the county. 

“The ... tool can play an instrumental role in developing the affordable housing we desperately need right now,” Annie Lord, executive director of Miami Homes For All, told the Miami Herald. Miami Homes for All is a nonprofit group devoted to combating homelessness.

Lord is also a Florida Influencer, who when polled was in the majority of Influencers who said the state should dedicate 100% of money in the two trust funds for affordable housing instead of sweeping it for other uses. 

“Half a billion square feet of vacant or underused publicly owned land could represent an enormous opportunity,” she said. “While we realize not every lot is suitable for this housing, certainly some of it is.”

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Miami Homes For All
When it comes to affordable housing, Florida needs to step it up, influencers say

"When asked what the state can do to help ease the affordable housing crisis in Florida, many recommended subsidies for workforce housing, incentives for developers to build more affordable housing or using public land to sell or lease to developers who commit to building it.

Others took a bolder approach like Annie Lord, the executive director of advocacy group Miami Homes For All, who insisted that the governor veto any bill that spends Sadowski dollars on anything other than affordable housing. Some suggested the state restore all the money that’s been siphoned off from the funds since the sweeping began in the early 2000s."

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Miami Homes For All
Miami is in dire need of housing that's affordable. These new solutions could help.

“The crisis has spread up the income scale over the last five years, so it’s no longer just extremely low-income households,” said Annie Lord, executive director of Miami Homes For All, a non-profit housing advocacy group. “Now you have middle-class and even higher-income people in Miami-Dade who are also [spending more than a third of their monthly income on housing].“

The result, says Florida International University’s Metropolitan Center: a shortage of 134,295 homes, rented or owned, to meet the demand by Miami-Dade residents earning less than $40,000 — 80 percent of the county’s median household income of $49,930.

“A lot of people believe affordable housing means you have a free ride and you don’t have to work and the government and taxpayers are taking care of everything, but that couldn’t be further from the truth,” said Kenneth Naylor, chief operating officer of Atlantic | Pacific Communities, a national development firm...”

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Miami Homes For All
Parking it

"...'Florida provides mobile homeowners with $1,375 to find a new home, or [$2,750] if the mobile home can be relocated. Both amounts are a drop in the bucket,' said Evian White De Leon, deputy director of Miami Homes For All, an affordable housing advocacy group.

The $1,375 'doesn’t even get you into an apartment, let alone the last month and security deposits,' she said. 'Shutting down these mobile home parks is digging the affordable housing holes deeper rather than alleviating it.'"

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Miami Homes For All
Audrey Aradanas graduates from the 2019 cohort of Community Scholars in Affordable Housing

Audrey Aradanas, MHFA’s Youth Program Manager, successfully completed Community Scholars in Affordable Housing, an innovative community of practice designed to familiarize emerging leaders with best practices in community development and affordable housing policy and practice in the United States. Congrats to Audrey and the University of Miami Office of Civic & Community Engagement for a successful 2019 Cohort!

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Miami Homes For All
Priced out of paradise: Why locals can no longer afford to live in Miami

"...Miami-Dade County has gone from a city where a middle income provided a comfortable life for hundreds of thousands of people to a metropolis beset by a housing crisis of alarming breadth and a level of economic inequality that matches that of Colombia. It’s the consequence of stagnant real wages, housing prices hypercharged by rising demand and big foreign money, and a short supply of places to live that locals can actually afford...

...'Miami, more than any city I know, is not being built for the locals,' said renowned Miami planner and urbanist Andrés Duany. 'The locals have been displaced on a continual basis. Miami has displaced an awful lot of people in a short time. And displaced them out...'

....One answer, of course, is simply to build more housing that those who live here can afford.

Miami-Dade County and private developers of affordable housing — that is, housing that meets a federal definition for people of low income — have built thousands of units across the urban core with scant public attention, using substantial state and federal subsidies to do so.

But the supply is hardly enough to meet the need, and experts say there is no way to ramp up production sufficiently to close the gap. Annie Lord, executive director of advocacy group Miami Homes For All estimates the need for housing meeting federal affordability criteria at 130,000 units across the county.

Another complementary approach, some preservationists and developers say, is to rehab the county’s vast stock of older housing, which provides the most affordable rents and costs but is often rundown, instead of tearing it down and building from scratch. That housing frequently is located in central urban locations close to work, keeping a lid on transportation costs that only add to the cost burdens borne by low-income residents. It would also keep communities whole..."

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Miami Homes For All
Leaders in creating housing for the working community

So humbled that Miami Today gave a shout out to Annie Lord, Executive Director, and Evian White De Leon, Deputy Director, for their work at Miami Homes For All on affordable housing. It really takes a village - we wouldn’t be able to do ANY of our work without dozens of community partners and funders. We’re lucky to be the voices of that work (along with our colleagues, Sabrina Velarde, Audrey Aradanas, and Perla Acosta!). And, of course, thanks to Marlon Hill and Estrellita Sofia Sibila for nominating us.

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Miami Homes For All
Florida State Lawmakers Want to Strengthen Renters' Rights

“Last week, while reporting this story, I was talking with Evian White De Leon, deputy director of Miami Homes for All, and she mentioned that state lawmakers have continually diverted money away from affordable housing in Florida to pay for other programs. The state has had its share of budgetary challenges in the past few years, she said, some of them due to unforeseen emergencies, like Zika, hurricanes and red tides. It isn’t always easy to see how the impacts of climate change intersect with other urban crises. But sometimes it is.”

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Miami Homes For All
City of Miami Wants to Develop Thousands of Affordable Housing Units by 2024

On the South Florida Roundup, host Tom Hudson and WLRN reporter Nadege Green spoke with Alfredo Duran, deputy director for the city of Miami's Department of Housing and Community Development; Annie Lord, executive director of Miami Homes for All; and Ned Murray, associate director of  FIU's Metropolitan Center.

Here's an excerpt of their conversation:

WLRN: Increasing the number of affordable rental units – how do you go about doing that in a market environment which has put a premium on land and means that the developers need to extract as much value as possible out of that land if they're building for residential use?

ANNIE LORD: The good news is that thanks to research by University of Miami recently we know a lot more about the vacant and publicly owned land in Miami-Dade. There's quite a bit of it. So we think that that land is potentially a major source of solutions for our affordability.

We are still conducting analysis on that land, but we think that that land is probably really conducive to smaller apartments, for either rent or to be owned, that are really organic to most of the neighborhoods we're all familiar with.

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Miami Homes For All
Mayor Suarez to Unveil Affordable Housing Report

On Monday, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, in partnership with non-profit Miami Homes For All, will for the first time reveal an action plan to address the city’s affordable housing needs—including specific policy recommendations that could preserve and create a combined 12,000 affordable homes by 2024.

The report, titled Connect Capital Miami, is the result of more than a year of community-wide conversations and engagement involving non-profit leaders, developers and other private sector representatives, residents and public administrators—all convened with the goal of identifying and building support for solutions that preserve and create 12,000 affordable housing units.

Last summer, the City of Miami was one of six teams selected across the country by The Center for Community Investment (CCI) to take part in the Connect Capital initiative to assist communities in attracting and deploying capital to address pressing local needs. The City’s Department of Housing and Community Development partnered with Miami Homes For All and other community entities in support of this initiative. The initiative has convened a team of collaborators to advance local discussions and identify opportunities to address the need for more affordable housing.

Other critical partners who have contributed to the initiative include the City’s Department of Planning and Zoning, the South Florida Community Land Trust, Related Urban, Citi Community Development, JP Morgan Chase, the Health Foundation of South Florida, the Miami Foundation, Bank of America, Enterprise Community Partners, the Knight Foundation, Wells Fargo, the FIU Metropolitan Center, the University of Miami Office of Civic & Community Engagement, Catalyst Miami, Carrfour Supportive Housing, the Community Reinvestment Alliance of South Florida, the Liberty City Trust, and the South Florida Community Development Coalition.

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Miami Homes For All
Housing in Miami Is Among The Most Expensive In The World. Here's What the City is Doing

“The City of Miami is creating a “master plan” to address its affordable housing crisis, with a goal of creating 12,000 affordable units by 2024…

…The discussion mostly relied on creative solutions, like taking advantage of publicly-owned land.

According to Annie Lord, Executive Director of Miami Homes For All, there is five hundred million square feet of publicly owned vacant land in Miami Dade County. She says it can be used to create small multi-family units.

“Most of our rental housing is small multi-family properties,” Lord says. “But we don’t really have the financing, or the civic infrastructure, to support building more of that.”

The city has considered creating a vagrant tax to help with the funding. Developers who own units or land that are not being occupied would be taxed, but Lord says that did not go over well with the residents in the room.

What has been popular in nearly every meeting, Lord says, is lowering property taxes for developers who create affordable units.”

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Miami Homes For All
Education is key priority for Florida Influencers in 2019

"In Miami-Dade, more than 400,000 households pay more than they can afford on their rent or mortgage, according to Annie Lord, the executive director of Miami Homes For All.

She said Florida’s “affordable housing crisis” threatens the economy and the well-being of the public.

'This is thanks to low wages, high home prices, and rapidly rising construction costs — market forces that exist throughout the state,' she said. 'As living in Florida becomes more and more out of reach for our workforce, our biggest industries (including hospitality, health and construction) face a serious risk to their continuity and viability.'"

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Miami Homes For All
Miami Herald reveals 50 Florida Influencers for 2019

“The most urgent issue facing Florida is the lack of affordable housing. Rapidly rising property values are driven by scarce land, foreign and out-of-state investment, and skyrocketing construction costs. Meanwhile, wages in our state are lower than in others, thanks to a largely service-driven economy. Soon, our economy won’t function, because labor cannot afford to live here. The Legislature’s number one solution is simple: fully fund the Sadowski Housing Trust Fund and put millions of dollars already raised into the development and preservation of affordable homes for hard-working Floridians.” -Annie Lord, Executive Director

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Miami Homes For All
Annie Lord sees a storm coming

Around her shoulder, she slung a purse and a briefcase bursting with paper and reports. In one hand, she gripped the strings of a pink box of pastelitos to serve during a donor presentation later that morning. In the other, she held rain boots – protection against forecasted afternoon storms.

As Executive Director of the non-profit group Miami Homes for All, Lord has a lot to carry. And while she was well prepared for rain, she’s actually much more worried about a different kind of storm.

“We are on the cusp of an explosion in people experiencing homelessness,” said Lord during a recent interview at her office at CIC Miami. Lord described a perfect storm that makes Miami one of the least affordable housing markets in America.

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Miami Homes For All
New tool shows there's still plenty of vacant land in Miami. This tool shows half a billion square feet.

“The LAND tool can play an instrumental role in developing the affordable housing we desperately need right now,” said Annie Lord, executive director of Miami Homes For All, the non-profit group devoted to combating homelessness. 

“Half a billion square feet of vacant or underused publicly owned land could represent an enormous opportunity,” she said. “While we realize not every lot is suitable for this housing, certainly some of it is.”

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Miami Homes For All
Confused about affordable housing in Miami? Here are a few basics

And what about “workforce” housing?

State statute defines workforce housing as housing that’s affordable to people making at or less than 140 percent of an area’s median income — a number that also comes from HUD.

But organizations who work on this issue, like Miami Homes for All, say that the descriptor is sort of imperfect, because even folks making well below 140 percent of the median income (or about $73,220) are also part of the workforce. 

And as MHFA’s policy director Evian White De Leon notes, these terms are all pretty relative for residents.

“What’s affordable to me might not be affordable to you,” White De Leon said. “And workforce housing is not just for the upper levels of [area median income] — it is for everyone.”

So when a development promises “workforce” housing it’s often not affordable for the average working person.

What else is happening on this issue?

Annie Lord, MHFA’s director, says her organization is focused on identifying the publicly-owned land that’s already available across Miami-Dade County, so leaders can work quickly to create more affordable housing stock. 

On the policy side, Lord’s hopeful that organizations like hers can propose impactful changes to local laws that will lead to the construction of rental units that people can truly afford. 

“How do we coordinate the resources and the permitting processes between Miami-Dade County and other municipalities, especially municipalities devoting resources to affordable housing?,” Lord said. “We’re looking at what’s achievable.”

As leaders and non-profits tackle this issue, Lord said it’s important to remember how easily a lack of affordable housing can cause a person to run out of options.

“We’re potentially in a situation where we’ll see an explosion of our homeless population,” Lord said. “And I do think that, unless we do something major, we could be heading there.”

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Miami Homes For All
Help in the fight for affordable housing

“Every resident in Miami can participate in addressing this problem in two ways,” Lord says. “First, we need to be more flexible in how we define our way of life. Our county is growing and improving in so many beautiful ways, attracting more residents every day. The only way to absorb more and younger residents is to increase the inventory of housing in more neighborhoods – not just downtown. Those of us who are more fortunate still cannot afford to drive the workforce further and further away from employment centers. Everyone’s quality of life will increase when we can live in more integrated, less segregated communities.” 

“Second,” she says, “we have to vote for statewide policy-makers and policies that won’t strip away our local ability to address the affordability crisis – one that we experience more than anywhere else in Florida. We all need to vote for state legislators that won’t raid the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Also, we need to be on the lookout for policies that are proposed under the guise of putting money back into taxpayers’ pockets, when in fact they gouge municipalities’ scarce resources for essential services like fire, police, water and sewer – never mind affordable housing.”

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Miami Homes For All