Miami Beach to legalize renting out guest apartments

Code aims to provide affordable housing for renters and additional income for homeowners
By Erik Bojnansky | April 04, 2019 04:30PM

Contemporary home with a guest house in Miami Beach (Credit: iStock)

Does your Miami Beach home have a guest apartment with its own bathroom and kitchen? If so, you may soon be able to legally rent it out.

In an attempt to create more affordable housing and provide homeowners with extra income, the Miami Beach Land Use and Development Committee unanimously backed a proposed ordinance that seeks to legalize the leasing of accessory dwelling units in single-family homes.

The ordinance will come before the Miami Beach City Commission for approval on April 10.

Many pre-World War II homes included a single-room apartment or guest cottage with its own bathroom and kitchen that were often rented out, Planning Director Tom Mooney said. After World War II, however, the practice of renting out accessory dwelling units, also known as granny flats, were made illegal by many cities in the U.S., including Miami Beach. As a result, these units were often used as guest rooms or servant quarters.

Now, many cities in the U.S., like Austin, Minneapolis, Boulder and Seattle, are legalizing the practice once again. The city of Miami allows accessory dwelling units to be rented out in certain neighborhoods like Buena Vista. All cities in California are required to allow for the construction of those units, Mooney stated in a report to the land use committee.

The trend of legalizing accessory dwelling units is driven by rising housing costs, Mooney explained in his report. It’s also why Miami Beach is pursuing the idea.

Commissioner Ricky Arriola said homeowners can rent out these rooms to college students to help pay off their mortgages.

Commissioner John Elizabeth Aleman said legalizing the renting of accessory dwelling units can also help fulfill the city’s goal of creating 6,000 new affordable housing units in a municipality where rents average more than $2,000 a month.

Aleman also said that Miami Beach is challenged in its ability to create affordable housing due to a city “culture” that insists on low-scale development.

There would be limits to the new ordinance, however. To prevent the proliferation of short-term rentals, accessory dwelling units must be rented for at least six months and a day.

Also, only property owners with homestead exemption can rent out these rooms, and only one accessory dwelling unit can be rented out per single-family home. Mooney explained these provisions were to prevent absentee landowners from illegally turning houses into duplexes.