Monday, August 31, 2015

New push to get developers to pay for affordable housing

By John Dorschner
    Eight years after a similar effort failed, two Dade commissioners are mounting campaigns to require developers to help pay for desperately needed affordable housing.
    Xavier Suarez is proposing that large developers
Xavier Suarez
-- those building structures of over 100,000 square feet -- pay $7.50 per square foot into the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. The county would pony up another $50 million from its general fund.
    Barbara Jordan told a commission committee on Thursday that she's still working on her ideas. She wants to meet with developers before finalizing a plan.
    Suarez said at the Economic Prosperity Committee that he didn't want to be in competition with Jordan. "If hers is better than mine, I'll take mine off the table."
    Truly Burton, executive vice president of the Builders Association of South Florida, said developers "want to be partners with the county" in setting up plans. ... Affordable housing is very important to us. ... There is no one solution to the problem. It will take a series of adjustments all the way around."
Barbara Jordon
Affordable housing is clearly a huge need in Miami-Dade. Federal guidelines suggest that households should pay no more than 30 percent of income for housing. According to the Shimberg Center for Housing Studies at the University of Florida, 495,000 Miami-Dade households were paying more than that for housing in 2013.
    Bloomberg News Service has published an analysis that the 30 percent figure may be misleading -- that wealthier households could afford to pay considerably more. But in Dade, more than 250,000 pay more than 50 percent -- a huge expense -- and the Shimberg Center reports that 121,390 poorer Dade renters -- those earning less than 60 percent of average median income -- paid more than 40 precent of their income for housing in 2013, a crushing expense when basics such as food are hard to cut back on.
    At the committee meeting, Jordan pointed out that the county already has dedicated funds for affordable housing -- getting about $50 million a year through a surtax when commercial properties are sold. On Thursday, the committee unanimously passed her proposal that 30 percent of the surtax funds be set aside for those with very low income and 20 percent be used for extremely low income.
          Strong Opposition Killed 2007 Effort 

      In 2007, Jordan advocated an ordinance requiring developers to pay into a trust fund. Fierce push-back from the construction community doomed the plan. The Commission set up a fund, but made contributions voluntary. After eight years, it has $2 million.
    In a July 30 letter to Jean Monestine, chairman of the county commission, Suarez wrote that after seeing what's happening in other localities and consulting with "various stakeholders," he believes it "plausible" that Dade developers could be required to contribute to such a fund.
    Calling such a relationship between large developments and affordable housing "linkage," he wrote that there about 300 linkage ordinances in the United States. "In Florida, many jurisdictions have them, including Key West ... . The model ordinance is found in Montgomery County, Maryland," where builders of more than 20 units must set aside at least 12.5 percent of them for moderately priced rents.
    Leading new urbanists, such as Miami architects Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and Andres Duany, are strong advocates of the Montgomery model, sometimes called inclusionary zoning. Among many other things, it tends to reduce traffic jams by tending to allow lower-income workers to live closer to their jobs.
Lizz Plater-Zyberk

    For new urbanists and some social activists, expanding the amount of affordable housing is a crucial issue in allowing for the poor to move out of the severely segregated areas, such as Liberty City.
    Doug Mayer, who has worked with nonprofit developers of affordable housing in Miami for many years, notes that there are already many impact fees on large developments, to help pay for schools, roads, fire protection and other infrastructure, and it makes sense that affordable housing be added as another fee.
    In his letter, Suarez noted that he wasn't calling his "linkage" an impact fee, because to do so might trigger requirements for complex data studies to justify the fees.
    Jordan's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. She told the Miami Times recently that she had looked into linkage, "but the linkage ordinance seems like a double whammy for developers,” because they already are paying a surtax.    
    At the committee meeting, she said there was a "bit of confusion" in the Miami Times story, but didn't offer details on how she plans to get developers to contribute to affordable housing.

Monday, August 17, 2015

UM's new leader already a sharp contrast to Shalala

By John Dorschner   
    In sharp contrast to his predecessor, UM's new president started his job on Sunday so quietly that, well, the major media didn't even notice.
    Only on the University of Miami's webpage did the news receive a big splash: "Julio Frenk, a physician, former dean at Harvard University, and the former minister of health for Mexico, steps into his new role today as the sixth president of the University of Miami."
Julio Frenk photo from

    Contrast that with the arrival of Donna Shalala in 2001. The story on the lead page of the local section of The Miami Herald was dramatic as she started the job:
    "Donna Shalala doesn't pull punches. `I am going to shake things up,'' says the University of Miami's new president."
    On this Sunday, The Herald chose to do a profile on Don Shula, who hasn't coached in decades, to lead its front page. No mention was made of Frenk's start.
    Frenk has his work cut out for him. UM, as are many private universities, is in a constant struggle to find donors, grants and research funds to keep down the ever-rising tuition fees.
    Frenk's medical background means he will be particularly knowledgeable about UM's Miller School of Medicine, which suffered through massive layoffs several years ago to correct major budget deficits. 

     Since UM purchased its own hospital across the street from Jackson Memorial, medicine has been the major source of revenue for the university -- a situation that has caused some to joke that UM is a medical school with an undergraduate program attached.
    While Shalala immediately threatened to "shake things up," Frenk sent a lengthy letter to faculty and students saying he will consider what the community needed before charging ahead:
    "As part of my first 100 days in office, I am initiating an intensive listening project, and I invite you to share with me your aspirations and hopes for the U. My first Town Hall meeting on September 10 will offer an opportunity to hear from you and to learn about the many ways in which we can build on our rich legacy to take the University of Miami to its second century. At that meeting we will define a structured process to collect, collate, and synthesize the suggestions from all members of our community."