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Sun Sentinel – June 29, 2005

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Affordable housing project gets under way in Little Havana

By Ginelle G. Torres

Little Havana, which has the lowest home ownership rates in Miami, is about to get more affordable housing.

The city broke ground on Tuesday for The Villas Dr. Godoy, named on behalf of Dr. Roberto Godoy's father, an advocate for affordable housing in the area.

There are 28 two-bedroom and four three-bedroom units priced at $112,350 to $195,000. The first floor will offer office space. The project's expected completion date is early 2006. The new housing is in response to the current development boom, which some say is catering solely to the upper class. In recent years, Miami city officials have approved almost 70,000 units priced from $300,000 to more than a million each.

The city and Miami-Dade County teamed up to receive public and private funding for the $6.1 million complex at 1475 West Flagler Street.

"The joint ventures can make this happen," said Community Development Director Barbara Gomez-Rodriguez. "Construction costs are increasing and we have to act fast."

Home ownership in Little Havana is at just 9 percent, but officials hope that by pushing for more economical housing residents will stop renting and start buying.

"The goal of all our housing initiatives has been to make residents vested stakeholders in our city," said Mayor Manny Diaz.

Buyers of the Villas cannot earn more than $30,300 for one individual or $43,300 for a family of four.

The city will also offer them $40,000 in the form of a second mortgage.

"We have an obligation to reach out to all those in the working class," said Commission Chairman Joe Sanchez. "They deserve the same opportunities."

However, Yvonne Bayona, who lives in Little Havana, worries that even with the subsidy people will not be able to afford their mortgage.

"There's maintenance, taxes and insurance, and people work to pay for their homes," Bayona said. "The expenses add up."

Ginelle G. Torres can be reached at ggtorres@sun-sentinel.com or 305-810-5029.