Affordable housing in Miami: A despicable tale

There is a crisis in Miami, the result of which has been people forced from their homes, communities uprooted, and promises broken, culminating in one of the biggest scandals to surface in newspaper headlines in a decade.

In Miami, the difference between the cost of housing and the average income is among the highest in any developed nation. In Miami, there are thousands of people waiting to receive housing. In Miami, there are people mired in poverty, people with children trying to make a better life. And in Miami, there have been millions of dollars that were supposed to go to affordable housing that simply never made it, because of a corrupt and incompetent government program.

Over 70 million dollars that was supposed to go to that affordable housing, but was wasted through corruption, fraud and incompetence. That’s 70 million that ended up in the pockets of contractors, with not a brick laid. The communities in Liberty City and Overtown have known about it for years. It is common for people there to be handed a voucher for public housing and promised a beautiful new home if “temporarily” vacated. But some people have been waiting six years for the new homes promised to them by the county, homes that never came. Sometimes if you pay your lease late, or cause any minor infraction, your voucher is useless and you could be left homeless. This is not just a handful of people that are left displaced from these affordable housing development projects in Miami. There are some 44,000 people on the waiting list for government subsidized housing right now.

A July 23rd article in the Miami Herald described the scandal as one that “shook the foundation of public housing in one of the poorest and most distressed communities in the nation,” with millions of dollars misspent and thousands of people displaced or homeless. A Miami-Dade grand jury called the Housing Agency ”an utter and complete disaster” and condemned what it called ”cronyism, corruption and gross mismanagement’.’

But all that the county has done is fire a handful of people and jail one. This does not change the system, and it does not provide housing for those in desperate need. Even in the face of this, the county is not going to put any money into affordable housing, as visible by the upcoming budget hearing where 6.8 billion dollars is to be doled out to other projects such as an opera ($30 million) and security cameras. Twenty of the largest social justice advocacy groups and grassroots organizations have banded together to ensure that money is spent on housing for those who can’t afford it. This Tuesday at 4pm, one of the final budget hearings is being held. There will be three hundred people there who plan to hold out for an all-night vigil. From a crippled foundation of poor governance and corruption, we can build a house through what democratic levers we have.

Jacob Coker-Dukowitz is a junior majoring in Geography and Economics. He may be contacted at