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Tropical Depression Fred, Affordable Housing, And A Debate Between Fake Turf And Grass

Miami Herald
The $300 million Liberty Square redevelopment project by Related Urban, the Related Group’s affordable housing division, on Wednesday, October 28, 2020.

A new forecast for hurricane season as a Tropical Depression approaches. We hear from a developer leading the creation of new affordable housing units. Plus, the debate over real grass and turf.

On this, Thursday, Aug. 12, episode of Sundial. 

Tropical Depression Fred

As of Thursday afternoon, Tropical Depression Fred was moving between eastern Cuba and the Bahamas.

Landfall in the Caribbean weakened the storm. As of Thursday, its winds were about 35 miles an hour and it was moving northwest at about 14 miles an hour.

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“We're expecting it to move toward the Straits of Florida by [Friday] evening. It's during that time that it should restrengthen into a tropical storm,” said Megan Borowski, a meteorologist with Florida Public Radio Emergency Network.

It’s expected to bring rain and wind to South Florida over the weekend. But details are still uncertain.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently released its latest forecast of this hurricane season.

“As we see warming oceans, the latest science has kind of concluded that we're more likely to see storms reaching category three, category four or category five intensity as related to the changing ocean conditions,” said Matthew Rosencrans, the Hurricane Season Outlook Lead for NOAA.

NOAA releases two forecasts, one at the start of the season, and one in August.

Tropical Depression Fred
Tropical Storm Fred forecast path. FPREN/National Hurricane Center

Affordable Housing 

South Florida’s housing market has exploded over the course of the pandemic. An FAU study found houses are 20% overvalued in the Sunshine State. And the situation is just as bad for renters. A study from the National Low Income Housing Coalition found renters in the Miami-Dade metro area need to be making more than $60,000 a year to afford a two-bedroom apt. There’s a massive shortage of affordable housing developments currently available.

“Hundreds of people or thousands depending on the location and units available, will be on a waiting list looking for these very precious and very scarce resources,” said Matt Rieger, the CEO and President of the Housing Trust Group — one of the largest affordable housing developers in the state.

The Biden administration’s budget reconciliation plan includes billions of dollars for the construction of new affordable housing developments. However, Rieger argued even if the federal government allocated new funding for housing developments in South Florida tomorrow, it would take another three years for the design, approval and construction of new units.

Mike Guatty lives in Wagner Creek Apartments, in Miami’s Allapattah neighborhood. It’s one of the affordable housing developments created by the Housing Trust Group. For Mike, having a unit significantly below the market rate was life-changing.

“I really wasn’t making a lot of money, I believe it was $30,000. It’s impossible to find anywhere in this area to rent anything that’s decent quality,” Guatty explained. At one point Guatty was crashing on his friend’s couches and living in his car before he was able to secure a home in Wagner Creek.

He eventually wants to move out of the housing development, when he has a large enough income to secure a market-rate home.

Affordable Housing

Fake-Turf Or Grass

How far would you go to have the perfect lawn?

There’s a heated debate in West Palm Beach happening now over whether artificial turf should be allowed. The city’s code enforcement rules don’t allow turf in front of homes, but it can be used on the sides and back.

Homeowners can be cited and fined if they don’t follow that rule.

“We just went through a killer drought here. And so I think that has led to people looking for options that are cheaper than to continually water their lawns, as well as the fact that artificial turf does look a lot more realistic these days,” said Rob Long, the chair of the Palm Beach Soil and Water Conservation District.

Fake grass has come a long way over the years. But, is it a good idea?

“Off gases, meaning toxic fumes, will come from the turf itself. So it can be dangerous to be on. And if it's not being regularly treated with biocides, it also can continue to be a hotbed for bacteria. It's basically like having a giant plastic rug in your yard that you have to continually keep clean," Long said.

Fake-Turf Or Grass
A groundskeeper cuts grass near the East Wing of the White House on May 31, 2016.

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Leslie Ovalle produces WLRN's daily magazine program, Sundial. She previously produced Morning Edition newscasts at WLRN and anchored the midday news. As a multimedia producer, she also works on visual and digital storytelling.
Chris knew he wanted to work in public radio beginning in middle school, as WHYY played in his car rides to and from school in New Jersey. He’s freelanced for All Things Considered and was a desk associate for CBS Radio News in New York City. Most recently, he was producing for Capital Public Radio’s Insight booking guests, conducting research and leading special projects at Sacramento’s NPR affiliate.