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September 25, 2008

North Miami CRA expands foreclosure assistance and approves $14.1 million budget

by Oscar Pedro Musibay

The city of North Miami’s redevelopment agency expanded its foreclosure assistance fund before voting to approve next year’s budget.

The CRA’s board voted 4-1 Wednesday night to approve the $14.1 million budget, which is funded by taxes on new development in the agency’s district.

The CRA’s budget includes millions for work on two affordable housing projects, more than a million for its museum, and tens of thousands for city purposes, including a water retention program and an assistant city manger’s salary.

The foreclosure assistance money rose by $50,000 to $200,000.

North Miami resident Judy Feldman warned that the CRA’s spending priorities may be out of whack, considering the potential for an economic collapse nationwide, a point that didn’t dissuade the CRA board’s vote.

Two big items in the budget for next year are the rehabilitation of the hurricane-damaged Bel House apartments and the redevelopment of the Pioneer Gardens site, a landfill slated to become condominiums. Work on the 65-unit Bel House, which saw its funding shrink by $100,000 to $1.1 million before the vote, is slated to begin by the beginning of the year.

An asbestos and fuel cleanup costing $1 million will continue into next year at the Pioneer Gardens site. Construction on the 136-unit project is expected to cost $13.3 million.

A big part of the CRA’s mission includes building thousands of affordable housing units. The affordable housing program is tied directly to the massive, mixed-use Biscayne Landing project. The CRA must build one affordable unit for every market rate unit built at Biscayne Landing.

The city’s council met immediately after the CRA board meeting and approved the CRA budget on a 3-1 vote.