Most land on county affordable-housing list unusable
By Charlotte Libov
Most of the 651 parcels of land on a list compiled for Miami-Dade County commissioners as potentially suitable for affordable housing could not be used because of liens or other legal encumbrances, a county official says.
The list, which was to be submitted to the county commission at a meeting Tuesday, was compiled to identify parcels that could be used for infill housing. The report listed the parcels in categories of an acre or less and an acre or more.
Cynthia W. Curry, senior advisor to County Manager George M. Burgess, whose office compiled the report at the commission's request, said she was "a little disappointed to see that there are reasons why over 50% — probably closer to 60%-70% — are not constructed upon that the developers and the non-profit organizations owning them could not control.
"There are a lot of reasons for this," Ms. Curry said. "It may have to do with the condition of the lots before they were transferred to the county.
"In some cases, trying to clear the liens has taken a lot more time than anticipated," she said. In other cases, some developers may have used a county financing program to purchase lots but haven't repaid the loan. One thing the list does show, she said, is the need to streamline the process to clear properties of legal entanglements.
"Because of the highlighted issues of affordable housing, you would hope that this would be a well-oiled process by now," she said. She said five houses could be built on a 1-acre parcel. So the report, she said, "points out the need for some improvements to be made."
The county's Infill Housing Initiative, adopted in 2000, is designed to make county-owned property available through competitive bidding to private developers or no-cost conveyances to not-for-profit development corporations to develop affordable housing.
Affordable housing is defined as that in which costs, including utility bills, are no more than 30% of the occupant's annual income.
Lloyd Boggio, CEO of Carlisle Development Group, which builds affordable multifamily housing, said he had not seen the list but had heard it was more extensive than officials had imagined. "It's a good idea if the county is really going to do it. I'm guessing that they are finding that there are a lot more sites than they thought," he said.
Although he said parcels of an acre or larger are needed for multifamily housing, smaller parcels that can hold single-family houses would help. "The smaller sites would work for small single-family homes and townhouses and for the kind of thing that Habitat for Humanity and the smaller non-profits do," he said.
He said many people do not realize how much infill land can be appropriate for affordable housing.
"A lot of sites work for affordable housing where you couldn't sell or rent marketplace housing. The demand for affordable housing is so great and the waiting list so long, this land can be made use of one way or the other.
"Everyone who builds affordable housing has a long waiting list," he said. "If we built 2,000 to 3,000 units, we could rent it to 10 times that number."