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Miami Herald  - August 20, 2007

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Lots of you are working on workforce housing


Last week, I wrote about some impressive work Broward Housing Partnership and the Greater Miami Chamber have been doing on the workforce housing front and asked for leads on what other individuals, businesses and community groups are doing. I'm happy to report there is a lot going on -- in South Florida and around the state.

Some of you are developers and real-estate investors who wanted to tell me that yes, there is good housing stock for less than $200K, and companies and municipalities should help get the word out. Others talked about finding new, more efficient ways to construct the housing so that it would be more profitable to build. Still others pointed out tri-county initiatives and see hope in plans for new areas, like the Miami Health District.

I also found out about several websites. One of those,, is full of news items and resources from around the state. Its editor, Steve Webster, is now working on other sites, including, which will include a directory of affordable properties. 'As Florida's housing crisis worsens, the builder/developer industry will come to accept that `affordable' is the new center of the market, not the poorest fringe,'' Webster believes. He led me to Tom Zuniga.

Zuniga, who heads up DSG Capital and has a long history of involvement in affordable housing in South Florida, thinks one solution is to better equip community organizations with the tools to understand, strategize and execute workforce housing development. Because they best represent community stakeholders, they become the catalysts to make real change, he says.

To that end, he is teaching a very hands-on program at University of South Florida, which has partnered with the city of Tampa and Hillsborough County. ''We are certifying community developers,'' Zuniga says. Neighboring counties may also join. Why USF? The university was extremely receptive to his proposal and is a terrific partner, he says. He sees this program as a model for other initiatives that could be created around the state.

The most interesting thing to me is that his students -- staff members of government agencies, municipal planners, builder-developers, Webster and others -- are working on real-life projects for that area, such as employer-assisted housing for city workers.

''We want to birth a new generation of community developers. It's no longer only about being a do-gooder,'' says Zuniga. ``Affordable housing is a major economic issue.''

Nancy Dahlberg is the editor of Business Monday.