Neighborhood Transformation

Neighborhood Transformation
Neighborhood Stabilization Program
Public Comment of the Affordable Housing Task Force


Miami Dade County has Proposed to HUD a "Substantial Amendment" on how it plans to use its NSP funds

The Affordable Housing Task Force is comprised of attorneys from Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc., Florida Legal Services, Inc., and community organizers from the Miami Workers Center.  This group is committed to the cause of creating and preserving affordable rental housing for extremely low, low, and moderate income individuals. 

The federal government's 2008 Neighborhood Stabilization Grant ("NSP") Fund allocation to Miami Dade County (the "Grantee") is an opportunity to protect tenants and stabilize communities affected by the mortgage crisis.  Often overlooked are communities comprised of residents who make less than 50% of area median income ("AMI") and who live in multi-family unsubsidized private rental complexes. These residents have often been displaced, or forced to live in deplorable conditions due to the foreclosure or abandonment of their rental complex.  We are currently working with tenants in several buildings which are either owned by the lender (post foreclosure) or are in a state of limbo with the lender refusing to finalize the sale and take possession of the property.  Our comments and observations are listed below.

Comments on the Proposed Substantial Amendment to the 2008 Action Plan

  • At least 50% of the funds should be used to assist in the purchase and rehabilitation of multifamily rental buildings, affordable to renters making less than 50% of AMI. Although the County has allocated almost 45% of the total NSP Funds for the acquisition and rehabilitation of foreclosed upon multi-family properties for use as affordable housing, only 25% of this total amount is to benefit renters making less than 50% of AMI.  Additionally, it is unclear why the County has allocated the exact amount of $26,571,480.00 for the acquisition and rehabilitation of foreclosed upon multi-family properties for use as affordable housing, and how the County plans to use this money.  A more detailed explanation should be provided. 
  • Since the County has decided to purchase and operate these properties, they should provide tenants with the same rights as those living in public housing, and the County should operate these properties by following the Miami Dade Housing Agency's Admissions and Continued Occupancy Policy ("ACOP").  The County should commit to rehabilitating properties located in an area of greatest need, and in an area where the rehabilitation efforts will have a positive widespread impact.  The funds are specifically provided for neighborhood stabilization, not the stabilization of one building, or the stabilization of random scattered sites. 
  • The County should make funds available to outside developers.  However, they should only consider those developers which are: 1) familiar with the community in which they want to purchase and operate a property; 2) non profit agencies committed to neighborhood redevelopment and community participation; 3) experienced in operating affordable rental complexes targeted to those making less than 50% of AMI; 4) able to leverage additional funds and proceed in a expeditious manner.  The highest consideration should be given to tenant groups and their chosen nonprofit partners who wish to purchase and rehabilitate properties.  We would also recommend that any nonprofit/tenant partnerships, with an eventual goal of some form of tenant ownership, or other model of tenant control be given highest priority.  Neighborhood stabilization can truly only be achieved if the tenants are afforded an opportunity to participate in their housing community. 
  • The Housing and Economic Recovery Act encourages the use of NSP funds not only to stabilize neighborhoods in the short-term, but to incorporate modern, green building and energy efficiency improvements in all NSP activities.  Multi-family rental complexes can serve a larger population and therefore can provide additional environmental benefits for a community.  The acquisition and rehabilitation of rental structures in areas such as Liberty City is an excellent way of achieving the goals of the Neighborhood Stabilization Grant.
  • Some portion of the funds should be set aside for mobile home park preservation. 

Observations

We have been working intensively with tenants in foreclosed buildings for the past year.  They are the unrecognized victims of this economic meltdown.  These funds not only  provide an opportunity to assist these families but it also provides an opportunity to acquire and rehabilitate much needed housing in the poorest neighborhoods of the County.
  • Areas of the County such as Liberty City have deteriorated significantly over the past two years due to the foreclosure of multi-family properties and ultimate displacement of its residents.
  • Most of these residents wish to remain in their communities and continue to pay affordable rents.
  • Many multi-family rental complexes in these areas have been purchased by slumlords during the past several years.
  • Many of these complexes are now either in foreclosure or already have been foreclosed.
  • The complexes are often in terrible condition due to the inattention of the owner.
  • Consequently, these communities, lacking a safe and decent rental environment, have been destabilized.
  • Many residents that were homeowners are now unable to purchase another home due to poor credit.
  • They need a safe, habitable, affordable environment in which to rent that is close to their schools, work, and community centers.
  • Most residents of communities such as Liberty City make much less than 50% of AMI.
  • Most residents are unable to qualify for either Section 8 housing or a tax credit rental apartment.
  • Thus, their only choice has been small to mid sized multi-family rental complexes, which are traditionally in poor condition, and are now even more neglected due to the current foreclosure crisis.
  • Safe, habitable rental housing can serve as an anchor in a community.
  • Considering factors such as loss of rental units to conversions, rising costs, aging rental stock, and the foreclosure crisis, using NSP funds to provide safe and habitable multi-family rental housing is an appropriate response considering our current market needs in Miami-Dade County.
  • The acquisition of multi-family rental properties at an extremely low cost is an integral part of stabilizing and rehabilitating the current rental stock in communities most affected by the foreclosure crisis.
The work of the Affordable Housing Task Force is funded through a grant from the Florida Bar Foundation.  Our mission is the preservation and creation of affordable multi-family rental developments for extremely low, low, and moderate income individuals.  Our task force consists of public interest housing and community development attorneys and community organizers that are working on a daily basis in our communities, which the County has identified as areas most affected by the foreclosure crisis.  Throughout the past year, we have noticed a substantial increase in the loss of affordable rental housing due to foreclosures.  We hope that you will take our comments and observations into consideration.  We are here to assist our local governmental entities with this new challenge of creating and implementing policies and procedures in utilizing the NSP funds to increase access to affordable housing.  Thank you for your time and consideration.