Miami-Dade County Infill Housing Initiative
Presented by South Florida Community Development Coalition, March 2006
: The primary activity of Miami-Dade County's Infill Housing Initiative is to convey tax foreclosed building lots to developrs willing to construct and sell affordable housing units (
CLICK HERE to get more background). The Coalition thinks that
the program can be expanded and improved.
Here are the Coalition's 2006 recommendations.
Pre-designed and pre-permitted building plans
The County should create and make available building plans that have been pre-approved and pre-permitted. This would speed up the approval process and reduce the amount of pre-development funds needed.
This concept goes beyond the County's current "Green Infill Machine" ordinance (developers who are building multiple units with a single design can get "cookie cutter" approval for that design so that it can be used over and over once it has been approved and permitted the first time). The cookie-cutter program is helpful but the developer STILL has to hire an architect to create the design and he STILL has to hassle with getting it approved the first time that it is used. The Coalition's proposal, on the other hand, allows any participating developer to simply use one of the pre-permitted and pre-approved designs without charge.
Resolve Lot Size Issues Prior to Giving Parcel to Developer
The County should obtain all required zoning variances BEFORE lots are deeded to the developers,
Under present zoning regulation a developer can not qualify for a building permit if the lot size is less 7500 square feet. Many lots in older neighborhoods are smaller than this (including many of the lots being given to developers under the County's Infill Housing Initiative). It's possible to get a "variance" from this requirement but ONLY if the subdivision had been platted before 1932 and the lot in question is at least 3700 square feet in size. The developer has to go through the Building and Zoning Department's variance request procedures and then you have to appear before the relevant Community Council (which sometimes make the issue political). The County should obtain all required variances PRIOR to deeding the parcels to the developer.
Resolve all DERM and WASA issues
prior to the County deeding parcels to a developer.
Comprehensive inventory of all vacant lots in distressed neighborhoods
- The inventory should include both county owned and privately held parcels. The information should be posted on the web (with the folio number, address, owner, aerial photo, back taxes owed, zoning, code violations, etc).
Collaborate to acquire vacant lots
- County government should create a mechanism for mixing public dollars with private capital to facilitate the acquisition of vacant lots that located in distressed neighborhoods.
Example - County could make available a
line of credit for acquisition
Participating experienced infill developers (or a nonprofit intermediary) would be encouraged to aggressively seek out the owners of vacant lots and then negotiate purchase contracts. The County's line of credit would be combined with bank financing to pay for the acquisition in cases where a high purchase price undermined economic feasibility for an affordable project. All or a portion of the County loan could be made forgivable if housing that was actually affordable was constructed on the property. The key is to make the credit line readily accessible because most purchase contracts have to closed within 30 days.
Improved Lien Clearance Assistance
Many would-be developers of affordable housing acquire parcels by way of tax deeds. Code violation liens, however, are not eliminated by the issuance of a tax deed. In many cases the monetary payoff amounts are huge. Creating affordable housing on such lots is often not economically feasible without lien clearance assistance from local government. The procedures of the Miami-Dade Housing Agency (MDHA) for assisting developers needs to be improved.
Currently Building Department demolitions liens are cleared only AFTER the developer has completed construction and obtained a certificate of occupancy. This delays the closings on the sale of completed units by a month or more. The procedure should be changed to clear these liens BEFORE construction has been completed so that the closings won't be delayed. The County's interest can be protected by requiring the developer to record a covenant in the chain of title.
TeamMetro liens (for lot clearance citations ) are treated differently from Building Department Liens. MDHA will help in getting them cleared prior to construction but the procedures are not publicized and are written. Most developers are unaware of them.
Foreclosure of Code Violation Liens
The County could acquire ownership of many of the vacant lots in distressed neighborhoods that are currently infested with code violation citations. The County could institute an aggressive policy of converting these citations into recorded liens and then instituting judicial foreclosure procedures. This strategy could result in a number of possible positive outcomes: (a) it might encourage owners of vacant lots to keep them clear or to pay fines in a timely manner, (b) it might generate income for the County which could be dedicated to infill housing, (c) it would put a number of currently nonproductive vacant parcels into the hands of new owners who would do something with them, or (d) it would result in the County acquiring ownership of certain parcels.
Amend State Law to Make it Easier for County to Acquire Tax Delinquent Parcels
Current law should be amended to by-pass the current tax certificate procedures by allowing the County to "cherry pick" selected tax delinquent parcels located in designated distressed neighborhoods (that is, no certificates would be issued for these parcels and title would go directly to the County after the specified period of time - this is the procedure used in a number of other states). 9.
Create written policy manual
for the Infill Housing Initiative
Include clarification of the procedures for lien clearance assistance to developers who acquire lots on the open market (including parcels acquired by tax deed).
Include procedures for nonprofits to follow in making application for donated lots.
Create better mechanism to preserve affordability
for the lots conveyed to developers under Infill Housing Initiative.
The current mechanism involves poorly worded deed covenants that unnecessarily create title issues for home buyers and which provide no effective mechanism to preserve affordability after the house has been sold to the initial low income homebuyer.
The Coaltion recommends using either deed covenants or "silent" (non-amortizing) mortgages to impose a stiff racapture penalty if the house is re-sold during a specified time period.
for backgound information