State to tackle affordable housing crisis as newest senior housing project opens in Miami-Dade

Low-income seniors to soon move into over 240 new apartments in Sweetwater

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Marta Roig and her neighbor, who currently live at a nearby mobile home park in Sweetwater, are exploring a new affordable housing apartment in a 244-unit building they will soon call home.

She is looking forward to moving to the Lil’ Abner Apartments II, an affordable senior housing project in Sweetwater.

Roig says “It’s a joy and a dream come true,” adding that she believes there should be more support for senior affordable housing projects like this one. Project leaders said the units in the new building “are reserved for seniors making up to 60 percent of the area’s median income.”

Michael Liu, the director of the Miami-Dade County Public Housing and Community Development, and Raul Rodriguez, a managing partner at Consolidated Real Estate Investments Holdings, LLC, also known as CREI Holdings, are proud of the Lil’ Abner apartments.

“The fact that they were able to put together a project where the cost per unit was under $200K, even with the escalating building costs over the last 6 months, is truly amazing and it really sets a bar for other developers to match or beat, so that we can keep the rents affordable,” Liu said on Friday.

CREI Holdings will now start construction on a second Li’l Abner senior affordable housing building which will contain 314 units.

It is the product of a public-private partnership model that some county leaders and state lawmakers support as a solution to the state’s affordable housing crisis.

“Most of the challenge is just cost,” explained Rodriquez, “cost has escalated 50 percent over last year, land availability, land cost is just too expensive, and it is not just the cost of construction it is the cost to maintain the building, the insurance costs alone that are also skyrocketing.”

Rodriguez said public-private partnerships are key to adding more affordable housing options to Miami-Dade County’s housing stock.

“Not only do you need the developers,” said Rodriguez, “but you need the government to work together to come up with solutions.”

“This is something that has become a crisis in our state. It has become a huge burden on our citizens and our residents, and it is something we have to address.,” said Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, a Republican from Naples, adding that there is a need “to provide incentives to encourage the private sector to be the primary delivery vehicle for the development of affordable housing.”

Florida Sen. Alexis Calatayud, a Republican from Miami, is sponsoring The “Live Local Act,” a proposed bill that aims to incentivize the private sector to build more affordable and workforce housing units in part through tax breaks and providing more funding of low-interest loans to affordable housing developers. The proposed “Live Local Act” would also ban rent control.

During a January news conference, Florida Sen. Alexis Calatayud outlined some of the provisions within SB 102 which includes a “missing middle tax exemption” in the policy “that is for developments that set aside at least 70 units.” She added that “rent for these set-aside apartments has to be a minimum of 10% below market rate.”

Calatayud said the law would also allow “counties and municipalities the flexibility to offer through ordinance a property tax exemption for property owners of affordable housing that make stock available for our extremely low-income” households and individuals.

Rodriguez said he is “looking forward to this upcoming session in Tallahassee to see how we can work together to build more affordable housing.”

According to a report by Florida International University, “Affordable housing production, low vacancy rates, and depressed household income have not kept pace with increasing affordable rental housing demand.”

The report shows that “escalating rent prices fueled by a rental housing shortage are significantly impacting Miami-Dade County’s working families and households. The household incomes of these service sector workers limit housing choices to affordable rental housing opportunities, where available.”

About the Author:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."