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Financial anxiety weighs on Miami trailer park residents forced to move out for new development

A man stands on the doorway of a trailer home.
Carl Juste
/
Miami Herald
Diamenfull Destin, 42, a father of three, checks on his children while they play outside his trailer on Thursday, August 31, 2023. Destin is raising his children alone while his wife remains in Haiti. A developer plans to build a 50-story development at the current Miami Soar Trailer Park site in Miami's Little River neighborhood.

An investment group plans to build a 50 story mixed-use development in Miami's Little River neighborhood, with around 4,000 residential places to live and some commercial space.

However, the land for this project is currently home to Miami Soar Mobile Home Park. Open since the 1950s, the large trailer park houses more than 307 trailers. The company, Miami Soar Management, bought the land in 2018.

Clara-Sophia Daly is an investigative reporting fellow with the Miami Herald and spent months talking to trailer park residents about being forced to move in one of the nation's most expensive real estate markets. She reported that the trailer park is among the last truly affordable housing available in Miami.

READ MORE: New development will rise to dizzying heights — and wipe out their trailer park

"When I found that this place is under threat of being demolished and these residents don't have anywhere to go, I felt like it was an important story that sort of emphasizes the struggles a lot of people in South Florida are facing when it comes to affording a place to live," Daly told WLRN.

Aerial view of the Miami Soar mobile park located west of Northwest Miami Court, between 79th and 83rd streets, outside of the Miami city limits, where residents are worry about the plans that it could be redeveloped into a mixed-use project with buildings as tall as 50 stories, since little compensation have been offered to trailers owners, on Tuesday September 05, 2023.
Pedro Portal
/
Miami Herald
Aerial view of the Miami Soar mobile park located west of Northwest Miami Court, between 79th and 83rd streets, outside of the Miami city limits, where residents are worry about the plans that it could be redeveloped into a mixed-use project with buildings as tall as 50 stories, since little compensation have been offered to trailers owners, on Tuesday September 05, 2023.

Daly interviewed Maria Eva Nunez. She is a 78-year-old retired house cleaner who has lived in the trailer park for about 26 years.

Nunez told Daly that she lives off of a small Social Security check and, because her rent is more than her fixed income, she relies on her daughter who's also struggling financially and has a family of her own.

"For her, the idea of having to leave and trying to afford a place to live in the housing market right now is really hard to comprehend," Daly said.

When Miami Soar Management Corp purchased the property, they raised the rent by more than 50%. Most residents are paying $850 a month for the land their trailers reside on.

Aerial view of the Miami Soar mobile park located west of Northwest Miami Court, between 79th and 83rd streets, outside of the Miami city limits, where residents are worry about the plans that it could be redeveloped into a mixed-use project with buildings as tall as 50 stories, since little compensation have been offered to trailers owners, on Tuesday September 05, 2023.
Carl Juste
/
Miami Herald
Aerial view of the Miami Soar mobile park located west of Northwest Miami Court, between 79th and 83rd streets, outside of the Miami city limits, where residents are worry about the plans that it could be redeveloped into a mixed-use project with buildings as tall as 50 stories, since little compensation have been offered to trailers owners, on Tuesday September 05, 2023.

As part of the application to develop the land, a housing study was done that found there are no comparable units in Miami-Dade County or Broward that residents of the trailer park can afford, Daly reported.

"These are not just low-income people. This is the lowest of the lower income brackets in our area, and it's just very hard to afford a place to live in this housing market."
Clara-Sophia Daly, investigative reporter

Daly spoke to the owners of the land and asked them multiple times if they had anything in their plans that would let current residents stay in the new buildings. The owners said they want them to stay, but they have not said what the rent would be and if they will be able to afford it.

"They have every intention of providing these people a place to live, but they haven't been able to make any commitments on paper as to what the rents will be," Daly said.

Mario Sauveur, 32, center, holding his son, walks out to speak with his neighbors as a developer plan to build a 50-story development at current site of Miami Soar Trailer Park in Miami’s Little River neighborhood on Thursday, August 31, 2023.
Carl Juste
/
Miami Herald
Mario Sauveur, 32, center, holding his son, walks out to speak with his neighbors as a developer plan to build a 50-story development at current site of Miami Soar Trailer Park in Miami’s Little River neighborhood on Thursday, August 31, 2023.

Daly said what's happening at Miami Soar isn't an isolated incident.

"Across the state of Florida and nationally, mobile home parks are being purchased by developers who see it as a recession-proof financial opportunity," she said. "The result is these communities of affordable housing that have existed in the United States are disappearing."

Miami Soar Management has said they will do what they can to ensure the trailer park's residents have a place to live. As of now, it's too early in the process to say what that will look like.

Daly said Luis Vindel, who is president of one of the homeowners associations at the trailer park, thinks every resident should be given around $20,000 to relocate. That's what to him seems like a fair settlement.

It will be some time before this project gets underway.

The application has been moved to the next cycle, so Daly believes public hearings will be held next spring. The comprehensive development master plan for Miami-Dade County also needs to be amended so Miami Soar Mobile Home Park can be rezoned.

A Miami Soar resident checks his mail near dusk at the Miami Soar Trailer Park where a developer plans to build a 50-story development on Thursday, August 21, 2023.
Carl Juste
/
Miami Herald
A Miami Soar resident checks his mail near dusk at the Miami Soar Trailer Park where a developer plans to build a 50-story development on Thursday, August 21, 2023.

Natu Tweh is WLRN's Morning Edition Producer. He also reports on general news out of South Florida.
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