‘People living in metal tool sheds.’ Miami-area mayors discuss housing crisis

·2 min read

Homestead Mayor Steven Losner said he’s watched the housing crunch spill out into backyards in his city, where some low-income residents make do with whatever illegal shelter might be available with affordable rents.

“We even have situations of people living in metal tool sheds,” Losner said at a meeting Wednesday with two dozen municipal mayors in Miami-Dade County. “That is a direct result of this affordability crisis.”

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava called the meeting to discuss housing costs and the recent surge in rents in the Miami area and across the country. “Clearly, it has reached a fierce level for everyone,” she said.

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Among the challenges that mayors cited:

Developer interest in affordable housing. With builders not showing interest in purchasing property in low-income neighborhoods, Florida City Mayor Otis Wallace said his municipality created a three-block site of publicly owned land available for construction. “Now we have developers coming in and showing interest,” he said, “because we did the heavy lifting.”

Virginia Gardens Council Member Elizabeth Taylor-Martinez, left, and Bal Harbour Mayor Gabe Groisman share a a moment during a press conference with local mayors about the affordability crisis on Wednesday, May 18, 2022, at the Stephen P. Clark Center in downtown Miami. They shared what they have done in their towns and discussed what they could do together.
Virginia Gardens Council Member Elizabeth Taylor-Martinez, left, and Bal Harbour Mayor Gabe Groisman share a a moment during a press conference with local mayors about the affordability crisis on Wednesday, May 18, 2022, at the Stephen P. Clark Center in downtown Miami. They shared what they have done in their towns and discussed what they could do together.

Resistance to affordable housing. In Pinecrest, Mayor Joseph Corradino said the village’s effort to expand housing options with “reasonable” prices into commercial areas near transit lines has run into resistance from some residents concerned about new construction. “There’s a fear of density,” he said. “Help us support what we know is the right thing to do. But it is running into tremendous opposition from some in the community.”

Illegal housing. Esteban Bovo Jr., mayor of Hialeah, said the city is cracking down on people living illegally in front yards and driveways. “People are parking campers and trailers outside next to their homes, and renting them out for $800 and $900 a month,” Bovo said. “They’re using our sewage system, and they’re taxing our garbage services. And they’re not paying for it.”

Mayor of Florida City Otis Wallace speaks during a press conference with local mayors about the affordability crisis on Wednesday, May 18, 2022, at the Stephen P. Clark Center in downtown Miami. They shared what they have done in their towns and discussed what they could do together.
Mayor of Florida City Otis Wallace speaks during a press conference with local mayors about the affordability crisis on Wednesday, May 18, 2022, at the Stephen P. Clark Center in downtown Miami. They shared what they have done in their towns and discussed what they could do together.

In Homestead, Losner said backyard housing has been a problem in the past. But he said the latest surge in housing costs brought more reports of overcrowded rental houses stretching into outdoor structures.

“It’s accelerated,” he said in an interview. “You’re hearing more and more of those complaints.”