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Comments to City on its Homeownership Zone Program

February 18, 2004

Barbara Gomez-Rodriguez
Miami Dept. of Community Development.
P.O. Box 330708
Miami, FL 33233 0708

Re: Comments on 2004-2009 Consolidated Plan

Dear Ms. Rodriguez-Gomez;

The City of Miami is now in the final year of its Five Year Consolidated Plan (1999-2004). The City has invited comments on what should be included in the new Consolidated plan (2004-2009) that is currently in the process of preparation. The purpose of my letter is to provide you our comments and suggestions.

The cornerstone of the current plan is an innovative "Homeownership Zone" concept. It seems clear from the Plan that implementing a Homeownership Zone involves much more than simply declaring that a particular neighborhood is now a "zone" with nothing more. Only one of the seven promised Zones (Model Cities) was ever actually implemented.

The Coalition urges that the Homeownership Zone concept NOT be abandoned merely because difficulties that the City might be facing in its implement them under the current plan.

Instead, the Zone concept should be expanded beyond its current narrow focus on housing. A more comprehensive community revitalization approach is needed. Merely creating new housing without reversing the downward spiral of social and economic trends in many of these neighborhoods would be counter productive.

For this reason we recommend that the 2004-2009 Consolidated Plan include an expand Zone concept. Instead of narrow "Homeownership Zone" concept the new Plan should include more comprehensive "Neighborhood Redevelopment Zone" approach.

Enclosed with this mailing is a description of the Neighborhood Development Zone concept. We ask that elements of this approach be woven into the Consolidated plan for 2004-2009

We offer our assistance to you in your efforts to implement the Homeownership Zones described in the current Plan and whatever new strategies emerge in the next five year Plan. We have been disappointed in the City's failure to reach out to the nonprofit developer community for assistance. We were particularly disappointed that the City never convened the "Housing Summit" that had been promised.

It should have been obvious to the City that it faced daunting challenges in trying to implement something as ambition as Homeownership Zones in neighborhoods where land costs were rapidly rising and where incomes, already low, were stagnating. Reaching out to the nonprofit developer nonprofit developer community would have made a lot of sense. Their collective brain power and years of experience, working in close collaboration with the City, would have helped to loosen the logjam that has been holding back the implementations of the Homeownership Zones.

We still think that the long delayed Housing Summit idea is a good one. The City of benefit from participating in a true collaboration of the public and private sectors. Ideally Miami-Dade County government, private developers, realtors, political leaders, and residents would also be participating.

Nonprofit developers are undertaking the toughest deals reaching the lowest income families. The neighborhoods in which they are working in are neighborhoods where for profit developers will not go without incentives. Basic issues of financial feasibility prevent the private sector from taking on ventures in these low income neighborhoods. Barriers include: low appraised values, high costs of development, high costs of land, expensive "brownfield" cleanup, expensive lien clearance, high relocation expenses, the difficulty of dealing with the patchwork pattern of real estate ownership, and the necessity of having to redevelop the typically decrepit infrastructure (sewers, water, etc.). On top of all that, local government inadvertently imposes additional costs by its unnecessarily cumbersome construction approval process. For-profit developers don't go into these neighborhoods unless they are in partnership with nonprofit developers because the nonprofits can provide them with the necessary incentives.

Please let us know of any assistance that you would need from us.

Sincerely Yours

John Little
Coalition Coordinator.