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Can Miami artists afford to stay local? This Miami-Dade County official is looking for solutions

Alex Ballina is Miami-Dade County's director of public housing and community development.
Courtesy Of Miami-Dade County's Office Of Public Housing And Community Development
Alex Ballina is Miami-Dade County's director of public housing and community development.

It’s a hard time to be an artist in Miami.

Fewer music venues, like Churchill’s, are around for up-and-coming musicians to practice their craft. Rents for artist studios are like rents for the rest of us — they’re going up.

Wynwood is lost as an artist enclave. The next areas, like Allapattah, are already pricing artists out. The median sale price of a home in Miami-Dade went up more than 70% in the last four years.

How can the people of a city express their creativity and — their frustrations — if they can’t live in the place that inspires them?

Part of Alex Ballina’s job is trying to fix that.

He’s Miami-Dade County’s Director of Public Housing and Community Development. It’s his job to use county dollars to build affordable housing. But it also means thinking bigger — about how our community is affected by local artists not being able to stay local.

That means artists from Miami are forced to leave and work in Broward or West Palm Beach. But maybe we lose them altogether to other states.

Foundations and nonprofits are trying to find a way to keep artists here. The Knight Foundation, for example, hands out grants, but how much of those dollars end up being used to pay for studio space versus the creation of art?

Others like Oolite Arts in Miami Beach are just flat-out paying artists rents. They have a residency program where they offer $12,000 a year to help offset rents.

On the Oct. 30 episode of Sundial, we talked to Ballina about how the county is working to ensure Miami natives can afford to stay local.

On Sundial's previous episode, the co-founder of The Lucky Pucks told us how she built community in Fort Lauderdale through her all-women's hockey club.

Listen to Sundial Monday through Thursday on WLRN, 91.3 FM, live at 1 p.m., rebroadcast at 8 p.m. Missed a show? Find every episode of Sundial on your favorite podcast app, such as Apple PodcastsStitcher, and Spotify.

Carlos Frías is a bilingual writer, a journalist of more than 25 years and the author of an award-winning memoir published by Simon & Schuster.
Leslie Ovalle Atkinson is the former lead producer behind Sundial. As a multimedia producer, she also worked on visual and digital storytelling.
Elisa Baena is a former associate producer for Sundial.