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Need help affording rent or trying to own in South Florida? Here's a list of resources

The Villa Maria affordable housing building in Miami Beach
Jenny Staletovich
The Villa Maria affordable housing building in Miami Beach

South Florida was already among the most unaffordable areas in the nation before the COVID-19 pandemic. Sure, compared to New York City or San Francisco, the rent was much cheaper — but the salaries were nowhere near where they needed to be.

In the post-pandemic world, the Miami metropolitan area has become the epicenter of a cost of living crisis, primarily driven by the exploding cost of housing. If wages were not keeping up with South Florida rents before the pandemic, by this point those two data points have completely decoupled.

WLRN has done quite a bit of reporting on the housing crisis afflicting South Florida. But one thing we haven’t done enough of is pointing people in the right direction to try to get assistance. What follows below is an attempt to guide our audience to places that might be able to help, either with renting or for potentially owning a home.

Rental assistance

Utility assistance

For help paying light bills, internet, water and others:

Assistance for elderly residents

Miami-Dade Save Our Seniors Program: This program will mail checks to eligible seniors to help keep them in the homes that they own. The program received $19 million in funds in the county’s 2023-2024 budget, using funds from an under-utilized mortgage relief program. An estimated 36,000 senior households are eligible and it could amount to $500 per household in assistance.

Section 8 / Affordable housing waitlists

Applications to receive Section 8 housing vouchers only open every few years, and are currently closed in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Monroe Counties. Hialeah has its own housing authority, but those programs are not currently open either. It can take many years to receive a Section 8 voucher or to gain access to public housing, even if an application is successfully submitted. Don’t hate us, we are just the messengers.

These vouchers are only available to individuals or families that fall under certain income thresholds.

Keep your eyes peeled: On Dec. 12, the Miami-Dade County commission is scheduled to vote on whether the waitlist should be reopened starting on Jan. 3, 2024. If it opens up, you had better get on it early.

Florida's first time homebuyer program

With Florida's “Hometown Heroes” Program, the state is providing up to $35,000 in assistance with down payment and closing costs for first time home buyers. The program initially only assisted people with certain professions, but a $710 million housing law passed in 2023 made the assistance available to residents of all professions.

Local homebuyer assistance programs

WLRN has reported on first-time homebuyer programs run by local governments and found that, as prices have increased, some of these programs are approaching irrelevance. The prices are simply too high for someone to make enough money to realistically buy a pricey home while still falling below the income requirements. So fewer and fewer people are using the local programs.

Applications will open up for the Palm Beach County First Time Homebuyer Program on December 27, 2023. Since median incomes are rather high in Palm Beach County, and income requirements are based on local data, a family of four with up to $136,360 in annual income can qualify.

If you are aware of other programs that should be included here, please let us know through the email below.

Daniel Rivero is part of WLRN's new investigative reporting team. Before joining WLRN, he was an investigative reporter and producer on the television series "The Naked Truth," and a digital reporter for Fusion. He can be reached at drivero@wlrnnews.org
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