Downtown Development Authority Seeks Easing Of Affordable Housing Mandate
Written by Eric Kalis on December 14, 2006
By Eric Kalis
The Downtown Development Authority (DDA) is asking Miami officials to ease the city’s mandate that the agency ensure affordable housing is built downtown.
The city’s Planning Advisory Board unanimously decided last week that it needs more time to review the agency’s request to amend a 2002 master development order requiring that 15% of all residential units within the downtown development of regional impact be affordable. The board is to reconsider the measure Jan. 17.
Agency officials want to extend the boundary to encompass the entire city, citing rising land costs downtown.
"Since adopting the order the DDA has struggled to comply, especially in downtown because of high land costs," said Jeffrey Bercow, chair of the agency’s Development of Regional Impact Committee. "The DDA is a public sector entity — we cannot just set aside funds" for affordable housing.
The development order calls for 1,125 affordable housing units out of 7,500 total units to be developed within the downtown Development of Regional Impact area by 2009. There are 2,328 affordable units in development within two miles of the impact area, but only 414 units lie inside the boundaries, Mr. Bercow said. If the boundaries are extended to the city limits, there would actually be a surplus of 8,000 affordable housing units, he said.
"The city can achieve better leverage by spreading investments throughout the city and produce a greater amount of units," Mr. Bercow said.
Board vice chair Kricket Snow said she is concerned that the city’s mass transit system would not accommodate people who work downtown but live elsewhere in the city.
"I am willing to see a reduction of the 15% requirement over expanding the boundary," Ms. Snow said. "If we had a more substantial mass transit system I would feel differently, but that is not a reality."
Mr. Bercow said he will describe the affordable housing projects currently being developed inside the downtown Development of Regional Impact area at the next meeting and "give a better explanation of how close commuters are to downtown."
An agency study shows that affordable housing throughout the city lies within a reasonable commute — either a 10-minute drive or 20-minute transit trip — to downtown, he said.
The agency’s request "shortchanges the downtown community," said Carol Gardner, president of Tacolcy Economic Development Corp., a non-profit that builds low-income housing, including the Edison Towers complex in Liberty City. "The initial idea was to build the 15% of (affordable) units downtown. They might end up putting the whole 15% in some low-income neighborhood, which undermines what the city asked them to do."