Miami board backs lower income limit for workforce housing

Proposed rule will reduce income limit to 100% of Miami-Dade’s median Income

Miami commissioner Manolo Reyes (Credit: Facebook and iStock)
Miami commissioner Manolo Reyes (Credit: Facebook and iStock)

The Miami Planning Zoning & Appeals Board is backing a proposed rule that will lower income requirements for workforce housing units, a move that may irk developers.

The legislation could dissuade developers from constructing projects with workforce or affordable housing units, Mike Llorente, a lobbyist representing property owners in the Omni area, warned board members before the Wednesday evening vote.

“The effect of the item is complicated and far reaching and potentially disastrous,” he said.

The measure, proposed by Miami commissioner Manolo Reyes, would mean that developers seeking zoning bonuses can no longer set aside units that are affordable to individuals, couples, or households making 120 percent or 140 percent of the county’s area median income, which is currently set at $51,800. The new rule would lower that requirement to 100 percent of the county’s median income.

Until now, under Housing and Urban Development guidelines, developers seeking zoning bonuses or subsidies in exchange for providing workforce housing can set aside efficiencies to five-bedroom units charging $1,587 and $2,901 a month for households making 120 percent of the area median income. For those earning 140 percent of the median income, developers can charge rents between $1,851 and $3,384 a month.

According to current HUD guidelines for Miami-Dade, individuals making $63,480 a year; couples earning $72,480 a year; and households of four receiving $90,600 a year fall into the 120 percent bracket. Within the 140 percent category are individuals making $74,060 a year, couples earning $84,560 a year, and households of four earning $105,700.

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In past workshops hosted by the planning board, land use attorneys argued that apartment developers pursuing affordable or workforce housing incentives depend on units reserved for households earning 140 percent for financing.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Llorente said “many deals will fall apart” if the legislation is passed.

Jeremy Calleros Gauger, deputy director of the Miami Planning and Zoning Department, said the new code could have “a potentially negative outcome” for developers of smaller apartment buildings who offer units for individuals and households ranging from 60 percent to 140 percent the area median income.

However, board member Andy Parrish said that in many Miami neighborhoods, the median income is really closer to $30,000 a year. “In other parts of the city, they’re getting evicted because they can’t pay $600 a month,” Parrish said, adding: “What I have seen over and over, in places like Little Haiti and Allapattah [is] that inclusionary zoning… is not serving the people being displaced.”

Florida International University’s affordable housing master plan came to similar conclusions, stating that the median household income for Miami renters was only $28,650 a year. The report also said that 57 percent of households in the city pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs, and that 1,286 affordable units a year were being lost due to rising property values.

The planning board voted 7 to 3 to endorse the plan, with board members Aaron Zeigler, Chris Collins, and Aaron Zeigler voting no. The proposed ordinance could be heard by the Miami City Commission as early as next Thursday.