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Legal Services of Greater Miami hosts panel focusing on South Florida affordable housing issues

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Legal Services of Greater Miami event

Legal Services of Greater Miami Business Breakfast Panel participants included, from the left, Jason T. Smith, Annie Lord, Monica Vigues-Pitan, Alberto Milo, Jr., and Matt Haggman.

With rent prices, property taxes, and insurance continuing to surge, Legal Services of Greater Miami (Legal Services) recently brought together a group of community leaders intent on finding solutions to Miami’s pressing housing problems that is putting pressure on low-income individuals, the workforce, and small businesses.

“Housing instability is affecting everyone in Miami in one way or another,” said Legal Services Executive Director Monica Vigues-Pitan. “These discussions are an opportunity to bring awareness in support of solutions and expand our understanding that we all play a role in resolving our community’s most pervasive issue.”

The February 23 Business Breakfast Panel was hosted by Greenberg Traurig and titled, “Housing Insecurity: What It Means for You and Your Business.”

Panel moderator Matt Haggman, executive vice president of Opportunity Miami at the Beacon Council, said both Miami and Hialeah have soared toward the top of the lists of the most expensive U.S. cities to live in.

Jason T. Smith, director of equity and engagement with the Office of Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniela Levine Cava, discussed the county’s Homes Plan, the latest component of the Mayor’s Building Blocks Program aimed at providing relief to struggling homeowners and tenants.

Annie Lord, executive director of Miami Homes for All, discussed how the affordability crisis is quite personal as it affects each and every one in the community in some way, especially now that it is “hitting the gamut of our workforce.” She said professionals, such as teachers, home health-care aides, hospitality workers, and small business employees, are finding it near impossible to afford living in Miami.

Lord also said to fill the housing shortage, about 150,000 homes would need to be created in the next decade.

Alberto Milo, Jr., president of Related Urban Development Group, said to  “build out of this problem” it’s crucial that the timelines for obtaining building permits be reduced and zoning laws amended. Developments, such as mixed-income housing, provide a holistic approach to creating affordable housing, he said.

“We need supply, stabilization, and subsidy, all at once,” Smith said.

Some of the Miami-Dade County’s initiatives include shortening the permit process for affordable housing and boosting mixed-income housing to increase supply. To foster stabilization, the county has leveraged relief programs and developed policies to protect tenants, according to Legal Services. For example, Miami-Dade County is the first jurisdiction in Florida to enact the Tenants’ Bill of Rights.

Smith also stressed that “every unit counts,” and it requires everyone to think creatively about underutilized properties that can be converted into housing.

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