Commentary

Not All News Is Bad News

Tackling the housing crisis where it hurts most. Commissioner Ken Russell for Downtown NEWS.

If you’ve read any headlines about the real estate industry in Miami lately, you know that our growing city has a major crisis of affordable housing. That’s at all income levels — more than 50% of our residents are paying more than 30% of their income toward housing. The picture is even grimmer for renters.

Our success has become our biggest challenge. This is a complicated economic puzzle — one the City of Miami and other stakeholders are tackling in a variety of ways. We’ve set major goals to not only create thousands more of housing units for our families, young professionals, and senior citizens but to save and renew the existing stock of housing that is rapidly being gentrified in some of our emerging neighborhoods.

As Chairman of both the Miami Commission and the Omni Community Redevelopment Agency, I’ve made the housing crisis a priority, pushing for a $100 million housing bond and innovative inclusionary zoning policies that encourage market-rate developers to include affordable units in their projects.

In the Omni CRA, a neighborhood on the northern edge of downtown, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build some of the critical infrastructure downtown needs to sustain the vibrant community it is rapidly becoming.

Our young professionals need more places they can afford to live. Our young families need more quality school options. Downtown also needs better integration of its public spaces and transit options. These are all things that can be built in the emerging Omni area, with the help of the CRA’s targeted resources.

Done Deal

I’d like to tell you about one project we just completed, in partnership with Vagabond Group Consulting, best known for restoring some of the glorious old motels in the MiMo/Biscayne Boulevard Historic District.

Inauguration Day. Photo, courtesy of CRA.

Using financing from the CRA to make the project economically feasible, Vagabond (led by the brilliant Avra Jain) turned a dilapidated 44-unit apartment complex just north of 15th Street into a sleek, modern facility that will remain affordable to its residents for at least 30 years. Not a single resident was displaced by this revamp.

Inside the renovated apartments. Photo, courtesy of CRA.

This is a perfect example of a public-private partnership that both preserves the community and helps us provide a healthy mix of affordable housing options for residents at all income levels. It pairs well with the small business grants the CRA has offered to help bring business into the neighborhood as well.

I’m excited by the prospect of being able to help other similar efforts bring housing, good-paying jobs, schools and public spaces to this region of the city.

City Commissioner Ken Russell, District 2, which includes Downtown. Photo, courtesy of CRA.

Ken Russell is Chairman of the Miami City Commission. Chairman, Miami Downtown Development Authority, the OMNI Community Redevelopment Agency, and the Coconut Grove Business Improvement District. He also serves as Board Member of the Frost Science Museum.