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Faculty find University housing in Coral Gables unaffordable

Through a program sponsored by the University, full-time faculty members are now able to purchase homes in a community five miles south of the Coral Gables campus. Most professors, however, will not be able to afford the homes.

The development of 32 houses will be built on 11 acres in the center of Smather’s Four Fillies Farm, a 32-acre estate, and will be surrounded by 21 acres of preserved land.

“The goals of the program [are]to provide quality housing for faculty, to maintain the botanical significance of the property and generate dollars for the academic programs at the University,” Michael Katz, president of the Miami Asset Management Company (MAMCO), said.

MAMCO is a subsidiary of the University of Miami and is overseeing the sale of the homes.

Three different designs of homes are available, priced between $795,000 and $1.275 million, according to the Four Fillies Farm website. Yet, these prices may be too steep for most professors.

“I like the idea that they are offering a program because it is very difficult to find housing in the Miami area,” Darlene Drummond, assistant professor in the School of Communication, said. “However, I am concerned about the type of housing and the pricing.

“It’s probably very fair for the location because I know Coral Gables is a very exclusive area to live in, so it’s probably a deal,” Drummond said. “[But] if they really want to make a difference they can make sure that the price is comparable to the salaries of the faculty who work at the Coral Gables campus.”

The Chronicle of Higher Education online edition reported that for the 2001-2002 academic year the University of Miami annual salaries were $94,000 for a professor, $63,700 for an associate professor, $58,900 for an assistant professor and $42,200 for an instructor. These averages tend to be driven up by medical and law school faculty salaries, which are usually higher than those of professors in other fields.

The Hurricane contacted the Office of Faculty Affairs about more recent annual salary figures, but Bill Tallman, the director of that office, said that it would be misleading to give a single number because salaries vary greatly by discipline and position.

According to Donna Harris, owner of International Title and Escrow Corporation in Cocoa Beach, faculty salaries would not be enough to purchase a Four Fillies Farm home.

Harris calculated that, making a 10 percent escrow deposit on an $800,000 home, the monthly payment on a $720,000 loan over 30 years would be $4,316.77, excluding taxes and insurance. For the monthly mortgage not to exceed the allowed 42 percent monthly debt ratio, the monthly debt expenditure for the professor purchasing a home would have to be around $10,280-that is, the professor’s annual income would have to exceed $123,000.

Anthony Barthelemy, associate professor in the English department, agreed that the Four Fillies Farm homes would be out of reach.

“When I’ve talked to most of my colleagues it’s been beyond [our]reach in Arts and Sciences,” he said.

Housing spots were allotted to qualified faculty members at the end of the last academic year through a lottery system.

The Hurricane attempted to contact Luis Glaser, special assistant to the president and former provost, who was in charge of the lottery and other aspects of the program, but his office said that he was too busy to comment.

According to Katz, the proceeds from Four Fillies Farm would go into the University’s academic program.

“It’s really a win-win situation for the faculty and the University,” he said. “For qualified faculty, it’s an opportunity to live in an environment that’s absolutely unique to South Florida.”

Farm amenities include a club house, swimming pool, tennis court and a nature path.

With faculty members expressing concern for the land surrounding the homes, Katz emphasized the preservation aspect of the project.

“We’re building in an area that was previously developed,” Katz said. He added that the surrounding land will be maintained by Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, a local organization devoted to botanical research, education and preservation.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the houses, being built by Breakstone Homes, is expected to occur in January, according to Katz.

Faculty members who are qualified as full-time employees and are interested in purchasing one of several homes still available should email smathersfarm@miami.edu or call MAMCO at 305-476-0948.

Greg Linch can be contacted at g.linch@umiami.edu.

November 4, 2005

Reporters

Greg Linch

Former editor in chief (2007-2008)


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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.