By Ana Mengotti
Miami, Apr 6 (efe-epa).- A tropical paradise with a world-class offering of luxury condominiums and houses, Miami falls far short in meeting ordinary people’s needs for dignified, affordable housing.
Jennifer Garcia, a young woman who spent six months searching for a place that would fit her budget, told Efe she experienced that glaring housing deficit first hand.
She and other low-income residents have had to move out of Hispanic neighborhoods like Little Havana and Hialeah due to soaring housing and rental costs and made the decision to relocate to Liberty City, a majority African-American community.
Although that neighborhood located 6.4 kilometers (four miles) north of downtown Miami has a reputation for crime, Garcia said she hasn’t had any problems to date.
The apartment she is renting is located in Liberty Square, a nine-block area of the neighborhood where old, dilapidated buildings dating back to a 1930s-era housing project are being demolished and replaced as part of a $300 million joint venture by Miami-Dade County and an arm of The Related Group, a real-estate conglomerate.
The project, which aims to double the number of housing units in Liberty Square, is an effort to reduce an affordable housing deficit in the city that numbers between 150,000 and 200,000 units, depending on the source, Related Urban Development Group President Albert Milo Jr. told Efe.
That deficit is hardly unique to South Florida.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition, which measures the availability of rental housing affordable to extremely low-income households, said in its latest annual report corresponding to 2020 that the shortage was nearly 7 million across the United States.
That gap particularly affects minority groups, since 20 percent of African-American households and 14 percent of Latino households are extremely low-income renters, compared to just 6 percent in the case of white households.
According to different specialized websites, the average rental cost of a one-bedroom apartment in Miami is $1,600 a month, while the average list price of homes there is between $350,000 and $400,000.
Those figures are far out of the reach of Garcia, a 21-year-old American of Cuban and Colombian descent who works as a lifeguard at a Miami park and lives with her mother in a two-bedroom apartment in Liberty Square’s Eden Community, the second phase of the public-private redevelopment project.
She said she had concerns about Liberty City but that those doubts evaporated when she saw the apartment, whose perks include vinyl tile flooring and a fully equipped kitchen with stainless steel appliances.
All of the local residents “have been very friendly” to her and her mother since they moved in, Garcia told Efe, adding that she has convinced two of her Hispanic friends to relocate to Liberty Square.
The amount of rent depends on the income level of the tenants, some of whom receive the maximum subsidy while others – including workers with fixed salaries in the health or education sectors – bear a higher cost.
Other attractive features of the new buildings include a security guard and an outdoor parking lot with palm trees and an enclosed playground.
Although that neighborhood’s poor reputation will not change overnight, the goal is to radically transform the area, Milo told Efe.
He said the plans include a supermarket built and operated by a national chain, as well as a new school, medical center and recreational facilities, stressing that quality housing alone does not make a neighborhood.