Housing experts address Miami’s housing crunch

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The struggle to find an affordable home in Miami is real.

A recent Miami Herald report highlighted the city’s mid-market housing crunch and cited studies concluding Miami has become one of the least affordable cities in the United States as home prices soar and wages remain stagnant.

What can be done?

FIU Metropolitan Center Associate Director Edward “Ned” Murray participated last week in a panel discussion to address the topic of housing for the region’s workforce.

Miami Herald Business Editor Jane Woolridge moderated the conversation Feb. 23, arranged by the Miami Herald and hosted by the Miami-Dade Beacon Council. Joining Murray on the panel were real estate developers, a government official and a quality of life strategist; they examined what is being done to address the issue of housing affordability and considered what more should be done.

Murray shared findings from studies conducted by the Metropolitan Center, including the Miami-Dade County Prosperity Initiatives Feasibility Study, which offered insight into what is driving the housing affordability issue and potential solutions.

He emphasized that part of the problem is the gap between the mid-level market in Miami-Dade (households earning between $51,000 and $86,000) and the median sale price for an existing single-family home ($305,000) or median gross rent for a one-bedroom apartment ($1,800) in the county. Those household incomes, Murray pointed out, do not get you much housing in this area.

“We must address this unmet market demand if we’re going to keep our graduating students and workers here,” he said.

The lack of employment opportunities that attract and retain high-skill workers in Miami-Dade County is also an area of concern.

The “brain drain” issue continues to persist and alarm local business leaders as young professionals leave Miami for other cities such as Atlanta or Orlando, where there are more job opportunities and lower housing costs.

“People follow jobs,” Murray said. “And Miami-Dade is near the bottom when it comes to STEM jobs. We don’t have that critical mass or density of employment opportunities in those high-skill, high-paying jobs that attract workers or keep them here in the first place.”

The conversation centered around the challenges to workforce housing, which included a burdensome government permitting system and zoning restrictions, and potential solutions, such as building more homes and housing units around public-transit hubs and developing vacant or under-used parcels of land in existing urban areas.

Murray cautioned about the dangers of building more housing units without thinking about the existing infrastructure in the neighborhoods around them.

“What we should be talking about, in addition to housing production, is neighborhood revitalization,” Murray said, “creating true neighborhoods where housing is a key component, but so are jobs, quality public education, recreation and transit.”

Murray added that the issue is an important one for the entire county, and particularly for current FIU students and recent graduates who are struggling to find places to rent near campus or homes to buy near their jobs.

“Everyone has a stake in this and the housing market. As it stands, it’s just not sustainable because it doesn’t provide the kind of quality of life people are expecting,” he said. “Most of our students live off campus, and it’s hard to find something that is close by – something where you can share bedrooms with roommates. It’s about affordability, accessibility and the types of units young people would want to live in.”

After the event, Murray stressed the importance for FIU to be at the forefront of this issue and to work alongside community leaders to find solutions that will make housing more affordable to many of the county’s young workers.

“We are the public research university of Miami-Dade. We’re it,” he said. “We serve the public. We provide the research and we share that research with the community, local governments and businesses. That’s a big role, an important one, that FIU takes on and that’s our mission at the Metropolitan Center.”


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