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Report: South Florida's Housing Affordability Crisis Among Worst In Nation

Creative Class Group

A new report has found that six in 10 employed adults in South Florida are spending more than 30 percent of their income on rent. That’s the highest of any metro area in the country.

Researchers Richard Florida and Steven Pedigo, who co-authored "Miami's Housing Affordability Crisis" for the Miami Urban Future Initiative, also found that housing affordability is worse for minority populations. The report shows that black families in South Florida have less money left over after paying for housing costs than anywhere else. 

The problem is expected to worsen due to South Florida’s changing climate. The report pointed to a study of New Orleansafter Hurricane Katrina, which found the areas most devastated by the storm became the most expensive for housing years later.

Sundial producer Chris Remington spoke with researcher and urbanist Richard Florida about the report’s findings and some potential solutions to the state’s affordable housing crisis. 

WLRN: What surprised me in this report was, comparing Miami to New York to L.A. to these other major cities, we rank up towards the top in terms of affordability. As someone that is steeped in this issue, did that data surprise you at all?

Florida: The problem is we're really a tale of two cities. We have incredible wealth packed along our coastlines, in parts of downtown -- like Miami's downtown -- and in and around knowledge institutions [and] universities all throughout the region. Then we just have people who are working in low-wage service jobs not making enough to make ends meet. And that's the problem for affordability. Even though our housing prices, on balance, are lower than the superstar cities like New York and L.A. or San Francisco, our median incomes are also way lower. So then we get a real big crisis of affordability. I guess what I mean to say is maybe it did surprise me, even to me who knew Miami was unaffordable, the degree to which we are truly unaffordable.

We see high-rises getting built all over South Florida, Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm. But as you say in the report, there's already a surplus of expensive condos and apartments. So who are the developers ... hoping [will] buy and rent these?

So there is this myth that there's more rich people who are somehow going to move here. We have like multiple years of supply of high end condos. And we don't have virtually any supply of the kind of affordable housing people need. And what's so striking in the report [is] we have the largest percenters of renters that are burdened, which means they're spending over 35 percent (of their income on housing.)

So that's what's terrifying -- that because our incomes are low and because people don't have the money for a down payment, they have to go in the rental market. And then our rental market is such that people are paying extraordinarily high prices relative to income. And I think that's the nature of our housing, that's the real issue in our housing affordability problem. 

Let's try and get into some possible solutions, some ideas. Do we see solutions on the supply side -- the landlords, the developers -- or more on the demand side -- increasing people's ability to pay their rent?

Well we're going to need to work on both sides here and that's why I wanted to add this report to that conversation. What's happening in cities around the country, and it's starting to happen here, is people point at Amazon and say, "OK you want to build your headquarters? You've got to make more affordable housing and give us better wages." Or in Miami's case they start to point at the real estate community. They're saying to the developers, "You've got to pay." If you want to have more density or more height [or] you want to build a taller tower, you're gonna have to devote 20 or 25 percent of the units in that building for affordable housing. That's happening all across New York City.

Look, rent control will be a reality for a politician who is confronted with this (and has) constituents who are angry. What's the easiest lever to pull? Rent control. Let's stabilize the rent. Now we know [and] economists have shown that it's probably the worst policy you could implement because what it does is cause the landlord to say, "The heck with this I'm not going to put a penny in it let it run down to the dirt." The better policy is to have a government private sector effort to [build] not just more housing but affordable housing. So maybe it's a split ... 20 or 25 percent of the new units are going to be dedicated affordable.

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.