Miami is among the fastest growing cities in the nation. In just seven years, the population of the Miami Metropolitan Area has increased more than 10%. However, the benefits of growth are not shared equitably: almost half of households (46%) use 30% or more of their income to pay for housing, including 24% who spend more than 50% of their income on housing. Through the Connect Capital initiative, a team from Miami is using the capital absorption framework to increase housing affordability, especially for people with very low incomes. As part of the initiative, the team will identify the best strategies to leverage a $100 million bond the City of Miami authorized to increase the availability of housing affordable to people with low incomes.
In this interview, Hernan Guerrero Applewhite, Housing Development Coordinator at the City of Miami’s Department of Housing & Community Development, shares his perspective on the work so far and his hopes for Connect Capital’s effect on Miami’s growing housing concerns. Hernan is a committed Miami resident with an extensive background in urban planning, grassroots organizing, and architecture.
This is the second of a six-part interview series with team coordinators from each of the six Center for Community Investment’s Connect Capital initiative teams. Team coordinators help their multi-sector teams steward work to address their community’s shared priorities.
What are you all trying to do?
We are trying to find a local solution to a national issue: affordable housing. We are using the Connect Capital initiative as a means to get to the issue of housing in a systematic way. This includes assessing what has not been working and bringing the right partners to the table to improve those things; incentivizing folks who do not traditionally participate in affordable housing to be part of the solution; and leveraging nontraditional sources of affordable housing capital alongside public financing tools, including the bond. What it’s really about is leveraging multiple sources of capital, analyzing how things have been done and improving on that, and creating pathways to help us ramp up production of housing.
How is this work building on what you all have been up to in your community?
Multiple stakeholders have been exploring solutions to growing the affordable housing production system but have largely been working from within their specialty or sector. Connect Capital is providing an opportunity to bridge across silos. We are engaging academics for data that will give us a better sense of the available land, the banking sector to get a sense of how their tools can contribute to increased production, and the public sector to improve the regulatory processes for housing development. As a result of Connect Capital, we are already seeing the issue rising as a priority for public officials and local leaders.
How are you hoping Connect Capital will help?
It’s given more visibility to the work that’s being done. It’s also providing a space and methodology to help think through the complexities of the issue. Connect Capital creates space to bring people to the table who are thinking about this day in and out, but also those who are not traditionally involved with the issue, like healthcare organizations and foundations. It gives us a chance to consider all the different priorities, pressures, timelines, that any one stakeholder isn’t necessarily able to spend the time doing. It is common to get stuck looking at things from the “dance floor” perspective, and Connect Capital gives us the opportunity to get on the “balcony” and see the bigger landscape.
The peer-to-peer opportunities that the initiative provides are particularly useful. Through them, the team can compare what we are dealing with to what other communities are dealing with and explore solutions simultaneously. I think that’s important because it provides comfort knowing we are not alone and can help each other develop solutions for the issue. Seeing what other places are doing also helps put our work into a wider perspective and helps us recharge and keep going.
What has been most interesting or surprising to you or your team so far?
The number of people who have expressed interest by joining our meetings has been surprising. It’s what should have been happening, and maybe shouldn’t be surprising, but I wasn’t expecting the wide interest. Of course, everyone is recognizing what a big issue affordable housing is, so it makes sense. We had our first stakeholder meeting in July with 30 people, and every meeting that we’ve had since has been bigger, up to 80 in the last public meeting. It’s encouraging to see so many people from so many sectors that have an impact on affordable housing participating in this process.
What are you most excited about next?
Everyone is very excited about the possibility of significantly increasing the city’s affordable housing production rate to better meet the needs of our communities. The city’s new inclusionary zoning policy is encouraging, even if it’s not likely to address the needs of the lowest income residents. I’m excited about different initiatives that folks across the city are involved with, including innovations in public housing, financing, and regulations that will help us meet our result.