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Migrant boats capsizing, MDCPS ending its superintendent search, and astounding rent hikes

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Patrick Farrell
/
Miami Herald

Today on the South Florida Roundup, we discussed this week's biggest topics — from the deadly journey for more than three dozen migrants to the growing affordable housing crisis.

Deadly voyage to Florida

On Tuesday, the U.S. Coast Guard conducted a search for a migrant boat 45 miles off the coast of Fort Pierce. Of the 40 migrants on board, five bodies were recovered and there was only one survivor. By Thursday, the Coast Guard ended its search not expecting to find any other survivors.

According to WLRN’s Tim Padgett, officials aren’t giving us much information about this boat that was found.

“Whatever they’ve learned, we’re not hearing much of it," said Padgett. “At the press conference yesterday, Coast Guard Captain Jo-Ann Burdian and Homeland Security Investigation Special Agent Tony Salisbury, neither would divulge at this point the origins of these migrants who perished out there.”

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He said that some might speculate they were from Haiti because the boat had launched from the Bahamas, which is a common way station for those fleeing Haiti.

The vessels the migrants come on are generally rickety and are not seaworthy. Padgett also said these vessels are usually commandeered by smugglers who care more about money than safety.

“As far as we know, not one of these 40 migrants on that vessel that capsized off of Fort Pierce had a life vest.”

The Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles said that we always hear about the DHS investigating these human smugglers and these trips, but rarely do we hear the result of them. She said that often once they do intercept a boat, the smugglers themselves will take on the role of a migrant.

Once authorities can figure out who’s a trafficker, they can begin to prosecute. It can be difficult because the migrants fear for the safety of their families because these smugglers have all their information.

“What we don’t see is who's on the other end, whether it's in the Bahamas or whether it's in Haiti, that is facilitating these voyages," Charles said. “We never hear about the prosecution on that end.”

Padgett said what makes this investigation even harder to deal with is the fact that there is only one survivor. So in order to carry out this investigation, Padgett said Salisbury emphasized that they’ll have to rely a lot on family members that were going to receive these family members.

Charles said that a newspaper in Haiti conducted a poll where 80% of people said they want to leave. She also said we should be concerned about whether or not we’re on the verge of another Haitian refugee crisis, as record numbers of Haitian refugees are coming to Florida directly from the island.

The end of one search, the restart of another

Three weeks after beginning the process to find a new superintendent of schools, the Miami-Dade County Public School Board voted this week to hire Jose Dotres.

His selection was not unanimous, with a 6-3 majority vote heralding him in. WLRN’s education reporter Kate Payne sat down with Dotres yesterday to talk about his future and the future of the county's schools.

Payne said he talked about checking in with how students and teachers are doing. She said he believes addressing unfinished learning should be the number one issue for districts across the country.

A point of contention during the public interview was where Dotres lives. He is a resident of Broward County, living in Weston. Many South Floridians live in one county and work in another, but some board members really want him to live in Miami-Dade County.

According to Payne, board member Lubby Navarro wanted somebody you would run into at the grocery store or at church. Someone who is there in the community and can make the district their home.

She is looking into adding a clause in his contract requiring him to live in the district. That may come up in a meeting next week. Dotres said that his commuting has never stopped him from meeting his responsibilities in the past.

In Broward, the school board selected four semi-finalists. Since that selection was made, semi-finalist Peter Licata dropped out from the running and did not give a specific reason why when talking to WLRN, saying that he did not want to interfere with the process.

Because of his drop, the board will have to meet again to re-do the selection process. They will hold the meeting again on Tuesday.

No end in sight for rising rents

Rents have been increasing across the country, with three cities in South Florida seeing some of the highest hikes in the nation. Miami, West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale are seeing rent hikes of about 36% in the last year alone.

WLRN’s Daniel Rivero said that the large influx of people leaving areas like New York and coming down to South Florida have helped cause this increase. They are able to leave those cities, come down to South Florida with money from better paying jobs and put more down for rent.

In Hialeah, a 20-unit building in Hialeah was sold for much more than what it cost decades ago. Overnight they received a letter saying that their rent was going to increase. Rivero said that some units were paying $1,000 a month, and in a month their rent is expected to increase to $1,650.

A 65% increase — which is too large for many living in Hialeah according to Rivero.

“The long-time residents are saying we can’t pay this,” Rivero said. “Hialeah specifically is very much the heart of working-class Miami-Dade County and people don’t know what to do.”

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis recognizes the large demand for housing in South Florida, and is trying to balance complaints on both sides of the discussion.

“We’re getting complaints from people who have lived here for so many years saying there is too much construction, yet at the same time, people complain that because there isn’t enough supply the rent and costs of condos goes higher and higher,” Trantalis said.

When it comes to affordable housing, Trantalis said the city is trying its best to increase the supply of affordable housing, but it's still not enough. He said it’s been very difficult to capture the needs of all these sectors and still make it affordable without compromising the quality of life.

Rivero asked Trantalis whether Fort Lauderdale has considered potential zoning changes to allow for less single-family only areas, or letting people build more on their property or legally rent out a room.

Trantalis said that has come up, but he is against these zoning changes because it brings issues his government would rather not deal with. He said these changes will impact single-family neighborhoods negatively, putting stress on infrastructure and sewage.

“We’re continuing to see more and more interest in multi-family housing and that is happening at a very aggressive pace,” Trantalis said. “Unfortunately, the demand is greater than the ability for us to build. We need to be careful of over-building.”

Natu Tweh is producer of The Florida Roundup and The South Florida Roundup at WLRN.