When the HSF Board held its meeting in Miami in November 2006, we had the opportunity to visit with Miami Workers Center and learn first-hand about the appalling housing crisis in the city.
Propelled by the exposure of pervasive corruption and incompetence of the Miami Dade Housing Authority, MWC and LIFFT (which includes former residents of Scott-Carver Homes), signed a historic agreement with MDHA, winning 1-1 replacement of the 850 units torn down a few years ago, as well as a commitment to reinstate former residents who lost their eligibility. MDHA agreed to these demands (which MWC had been pushing for years), because it was under threat of takeover by federal HUD. HUD in turn was using the corruption scandal as a convenient excuse to take over MDHA so it could continue privatization of the agency and its assets and land. The takeover occurred some months later, despite lawsuits and protests by MWC and other housing advocates in Miami. HUD of course refuses to honor the Scott Carver agreement that MDHA signed with MWC, but the existence of that legally binding document gives MWC leverage and standing in court for future legal challenges. At this point, the Scott Carver project is still stalled, although RFPs have been solicited from developers and MWC is part of the selection process. However, most local developers do not want to get involved in case the agreement to build 1-1 replacement is upheld. MWC is also seeking to stall the process, using litigation and other strategies, until after the 2008 election and a new federal administration is put in place and HUD has totally new leadership. In the meantime, MWC is using this waiting period to sharpen its demands around alternative sustainable development proposals for Scott Carver as well as adjoining acres; this comprehensive and pro-active vision would include green jobs and housing in the middle of Liberty City.
The commitment to using ‘green’ design principles also extends to MWC’s work around the Liberty City transit hub, a $100 million mixed-income housing and transit development planned for the neighborhood where MWC’s office is located. MWC won a place on this project’s RFP and developer selection committee; and pushed for selection criteria that prioritized the developers’ willingness to negotiate a CBA. However, one significant challenge facing all development projects in Miami(and elsewhere) is the worsening economy and its impact on the housing market. Most publicly supported development such as these are funding by state tax credits, (which are then sold to corporations to raise funds), but these tax credits are falling in value due to the credit and mortgage crisis, making it less attractive to developers to bid on projects, or agree to low income housing set-asides.