Shekeria Brown is a Miami leader who is working to ensure everyone in Miami-Dade County has access to safe, quality, affordable housing. She is doing so by building a coalition committed to expanding affordable housing and economic opportunity while improving overall quality of life in neighborhoods. The coalition’s approach, which is comprehensive and equity driven, is carried out by building capacity, shaping policy and fostering collaboration.
Miami’s people, the diverse cultures, neighborhoods and the opportunity to positively impact this growing City is why I choose to invest my time in Miami. South Florida has been my home for the majority of my life. Access to opportunity has been an underlying factor for the many doors that I have been blessed to walk through. I want to see all who call Miami home have access to opportunity regardless of the zip code or neighborhood they live in. I envision a City where low and moderate income people and neighborhoods not only benefit, but are equipped to build wealth, as communities change. Miami is filled with hardworking people actively engaged and investing in its future. I also see this within the South Florida Community Development Coalition’s (SFCDC) membership and our partners every day.
WHAT IS THE MOST PRESSING ISSUE TO SOLVE ON YOUR LIST? WHY?
While SFCDC takes a comprehensive approach to developing communities, access to quality, safe affordable housing is the most pressing issue we are working on. Miami households are some of the most cost-burdened households in the United States, spending an excess of 60% of their gross income on housing and transportation costs alone. No other City spends more of their income on rent, than Miami. Besides the stress and uncertainty this causes, with so much of a household’s income consumed on these two costs, very little is left for other items such as food and healthcare. Imagine being on a fixed-income with these rising costs. Affordable housing, or a lack of it, is also an economic development issue. While we work to diversify our economy to include more high paying jobs, retain the ones that are here and support small businesses, availability of housing for the workforce is a critical factor for a company deciding to relocate or stay and grow.
The affordable housing issue has many layers, compounded by the average lower incomes earned by our residents. There is a continuum of housing that is needed, from shelters for those experiencing homelessness to housing for our workforce. As we develop affordable housing, we also lose it. Thousands of units that have received federal or state assistance will convert to more expensive market rate units in the near future, once their required affordability periods have expired. Mobile home parks, which are the largest source of unsubsidized housing that many lower income households can afford, continue to face redevelopment pressures. Rent has increased with growing demand. Most of the housing constructed in the last few years has not been developed for the local workforce. Our population is growing and land costs continue to rise.
HOW CAN WE SOLVE IT?
There isn’t one tool or program alone that can solve the housing crisis which we face. To solve the affordable housing issue and transform the landscape, we need a toolkit that is comprehensive, rooted in social equity and championed by all, especially our leaders, who care about this issue. It also requires coordination on policy, planning and production.
Some of SFCDC’s current advocacy areas include expanding resources for affordable housing development such as funding existing affordable housing trust funds at various levels of government. We also support the passage of a mandatory inclusionary zoning policy which requires developers to set aside a certain percentage of housing units for the workforce or pay into an affordable housing trust fund. As the demand for affordable housing outweighs resources, we advocate for the efficient use of funding and proper oversight. As a coalition that was founded by nonprofit community developers, we advocate for the support of non-profits and the critical work they play to develop housing and entire neighborhoods, including the people. We also advocate for the investment in public infrastructure that removes barriers for nonprofits and smaller developers to build housing in communities that have suffered from disinvestment while streamlining regulatory and program processes to undertake development. We must be proactive in exploring other tools such as equitable transit oriented development, linkage fees, community land trusts and other solutions.
We welcome organizations and individuals to join us in our efforts.