Over the last year, a number of studies and local media reports have shown how the cost of living in Miami-Dade continues to rise while wages remain stagnant. Recently, the Herald profiled Ana Rodríguez, who survived decades as a political prisoner in Cuba only to face foreclosure in Miami. At a summit on Poverty Solutions in December, hosted by Catalyst Miami (the organization I founded 25 years ago to help solve problems like this one), residents, community leaders, academics and public officials agreed that housing affordability is at a critical crossroads in Miami-Dade.
Home ownership is already out of reach for too many working families. The median home price in Miami-Dade is close to $350,000, but the median salary is under $45,000 a year. It is virtually impossible for many first-time homebuyers to move forward with their dream of owning a home. For renters, the picture is even worse. More than 60 percent of Miami-Dade residents are paying more for housing than they can afford.
Even young professionals with college degrees making six-figure salaries struggle to find adequate housing in South Florida. During the economic recession of the late 2000s, we saw more young professionals plant their roots here because the cost of living stabilized, and home prices were manageable. But since 2011, we’ve seen home prices soar by nearly 60 percent.
This is unsustainable. We need to grow opportunities for every part of our community, and for all families.
The affordable housing crisis is daunting. But having recognized the problem, we can begin to debate real solutions. There is no silver bullet, and to succeed we must do three things at once:
- Create a higher-income economy that allows hardworking families to get by.
- Preserve and maintain the existing stock of workforce housing.
- Fully utilize the existing tools the County has to invest in workforce housing, and ensure the state fully deploys its resources through the Florida Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
As we continue this conversation, we must better define our future as a community. Where do we want to be at the close of the next decade, and in 25 years? We need to better position our community as the economic hub for the tech sector and truly become a key strategic partner to the Americas. We must ensure that transit systems make us more productive and encourage smart development. And, of course, we must continue to invest in resiliency and prepare ours homes and neighborhoods for the twin threats of climate change: rising sea levels and stronger storms.
My philosophy and approach are simple. What’s good for our community is good for business. We must come together across three sectors — government, business and nonprofits — to chart our future. If families can afford to live comfortably in our community, then our business sector will thrive from that stability.
But before moving forward, we must accept that an affordability crisis has arrived in Miami-Dade. We ignore it at our peril.