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'Beyond a crisis': As Hialeah gets more popular, residents feel pushed out by rents

 Hialeah is buzzing with more popularity, but as the city pushes for more
Photo by Al Diaz
/
via The Miami Herald
Hialeah is buzzing with more popularity, but as the city pushes for more density, some residents feel they're being pushed out.

The Miami suburb of Hialeah has become more appealing to prospective renters in recent years.

Hialeah surpassed the city of Miami in popularity among renters in June, according to real estate analysts, as the city government aims to boost development and bring in a younger resident and consumer base.

“We were forced out of our own city where we grew up, where we nourished our roots."
Mercedes Cabrera

But not everyone is reaping the benefits of the increased popularity of 'La Ciudad Que Progresa' — the City of Progress.

Mercedes Cabrera lived in Hialeah for decades with her sister Milagros and her mom, Deisy. She remembers going to Eckerd Drugs, spending days at Amelia Earhart Park and watching movies for cheap at the dollar theater.

“We've known Hialeah for the entirety of our lives. I'm nearly 40, and my mom, since she arrived in the Mariel Boatlift, she's been in Hialeah,” Cabrera told WLRN.

But for the past several months, Cabrera and her family have been homeless. Evicted in February, they’ve been living on the kindness of friends while looking for a place they can afford in Hialeah.

They haven’t had much luck.

“We were forced out of our own city where we grew up, where we nourished our roots, where we have so many contacts and so many people who want us back,” Cabrera said.

Mercedes Cabrera (left) speaking with Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava (right) during a meeting on the county's Tenant's Bill of Rights in 2022. Cabrera and her family were evicted early this year and do not have a place to live.
Douglas Hanks
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Miami Herald
Mercedes Cabrera (left) speaking with Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava (right) during a meeting on the county's Tenant's Bill of Rights in 2022.

“But there's only so much we can do with the rent prices and the fact that we're dependent on a Section 8 voucher to help us find assistance.”

Real estate analysts with the website Rentcafe say Hialeah is “buzzing” as more renters look to the city to find new apartments in the growing city. In their June rental activity report, they noted that Hialeah surpassed the city of Miami in popularity among renters.

READ MORE: Is Hialeah’s 911 system itself in an emergency?

They measure that by examining how many people saved searches for rentals in Hialeah on their site compared to June of last year, and compare it to the number of rental spaces actually available in Hialeah.

Based on their data, more people are searching for rentals in the suburbs than in the city proper — web traffic for Hialeah has gone up by 12% — while the supply of available rental apartments has dropped by 26% from 2022.

“What I see is these young professionals that are moving into the city are demanding a better product ... And that's a good thing.”
Hialeah Mayor Esteban 'Steve' Bovo

Hialeah Mayor Esteban “Steve” Bovo sees the increased attention from renters as a blessing for the city. He attributes it to the city’s affordability, and new entertainment areas the city is investing in like the Leah Arts District — home to Unbranded Brewing Company — and the Factory Town outdoor music venue.

“What I see is these young professionals that are moving into the city are demanding a better product,” Bovo told WLRN. "They want good restaurants, they want places to go and hang out. And that's a good thing.”

A mural on the wall of Unbranded Brewing Company in the Leah Arts District: a swath of warehouses in Hialeah decorated with public art.
Photo by Joshua Ceballos
/
WLRN
A mural on the wall of Unbranded Brewing Company in the Leah Arts District: a swath of warehouses in Hialeah decorated with public art.

But that rise in demand has made it so what was once a working-class haven is now pushing out families who made their lives there.

More than 200,000 people live in Hialeah — nearly all of them Hispanic or Latino, and most of them Cuban, according to the 2020 U.S. Census. The median income in the city is around $43,000.

Ned Murray, associate director of the Jorge M. Perez Metropolitan Center at Florida International University, says rent prices in Hialeah and similar working-class areas of Miami-Dade County are on a steady rise while other cities are cooling off.

“Those areas were generally affordable up until about two years ago. But we're seeing those prices going up and people are being priced out,” Murray said.

Location and affordability

According to Murray, rents in hot markets like the city of Miami are rising by single digit figures year over year, while Hialeah saw a 17% increase in rent from 2022 to 2023.

Although the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the city of Miami has escalated to $3500 per month in 2023, much higher than Hialeah's at $2100, rent prices are rising faster in Hialeah than in neighboring cities.

“This goes beyond a crisis. This is really a human catastrophe."
Ned Murray, associate director at FIU's Jorge M. Perez Metropolitan Center

Murray said that’s for a few reasons. Because Hialeah has traditionally been a working-class community and rents are lower than surrounding cities, the area is more popular for those looking for affordable living space.

He also points to Hialeah’s central location in the county and its easy access to employment as another reason developers and renters are eyeing the city.

“Hialeah has easy access to any point in Miami-Dade County… so it just makes it a very good location from an investment standpoint,” Murray said .

Shoma Village is a 304-unit apartment development in East Hialeah. Studio apartments start $2,105
Photo by Joshua Ceballos
/
WLRN
Shoma Village is a 304-unit apartment development in East Hialeah. Studio apartments start $2,105

But with the increased popularity, so too comes the increased prices. Murray said affordable areas in the western part of the county, like Hialeah and Opa-Locka, are no longer the working-class havens they used to be, as more affluent renters are priced out of cities like Miami.

As the Miami-Dade metro area struggles with high housing prices, Hialeah’s rise in rent prices contributes to what Murray said is a catastrophic state of affordability in South Florida.

“This goes beyond a crisis. This is really a human catastrophe,” he said.

Mayor Bovo said the city has tried to help residents who are struggling with rent increases, but does not want to get the government involved in the private sector housing market.

His strategy for dealing with affordability involves making it easier for developers to build more dense housing in Hialeah, hoping that as supply goes up, prices will come down.

Joshua Ceballos is WLRN's Local Government Accountability Reporter and a member of the investigations team. Reach Joshua Ceballos at jceballos@wlrnnews.org
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