Miami’s Affordable Housing Crisis

By staff writer

February 2019

Photo by Gunther Hagleitner / Flickr, taken from Miami New Times

While much of Miami’s real estate market has seen a boom in demand and production over the last decade, the city’s affordable housing market is comparatively stark and limited, leaving mid- to low-income individuals with few options for housing in nearly all areas of the county.

However, there are still areas of Downtown that are particularly ripe for affordable real estate development. A prime example is Omni Midtown, near the Adrienne Arsht Center, and the area’s Community Redevelopment Agency has taken note. When Invest: Miami sat down with Omni Midtown CRA’s Executive Director Jason Walker last year, he highlighted the shift in the area’s home prices and its need for more affordable development.

“Many people who lived here for years, myself included, can no longer afford to, so we are working to change that,” Walker explained. “Many people have a certain interpretation when they hear the term ‘affordable housing.’ Something important to clarify is that our focus is on affordable housing for mixed incomes.”

Walker’s latter point highlights the fact fact that the term “affordable housing” does not necessarily mean “low-income housing” but rather housing for people with varying incomes who simply cannot afford luxury living.

“Miami is currently in a crisis,” stated Matthew Rieger, president and CEO of Housing Trust Group in a recent conversation with Invest: Miami. “According to a JCHS Harvard University study, 61 percent of Miami renters are currently cost-burdened when it comes to housing costs, meaning they are spending over 30 percent of their income on rent. This makes Miami the number-one large metro area in the country for cost-burdened renters.”

Furthermore, Rieger explained that other areas of the county, such as Kendall, have seen increased demand for housing development as a result of prices in Downtown, Brickell and Miami Beach.

“West Kendall is experiencing tremendous growth.” explained Rieger. “Demand for affordable housing developments in the county is incredible, and they tend to yield triple-digit waiting lists for leases almost immediately.”

To learn more about our interviewees, visit their websites:

Omni Midtown CRA: http://omnicra.com/

Housing Trust Group: http://htgf.com/

 

Historic Virginia Key Looks to the Future

By staff writer

February 2019

Credit: EventUP

As its name implies, Historic Virginia Key Beach Park is rich with history. Since it reopened in 2008, however, the park has wasted no time in establishing itself as both an environmental preserve area and a prime site for cultural events.

Virginia Key’s history dates back to the 1920s, when it became a haven for the local African-American population due to segregation. It remained a segregated zone in the 1950s and was closed by the city in 1982 due to high maintenance costs. In 1999, however, a group of locals called the Virginia Key Beach Park Civil Rights Task Force organized in response to developers looking to buy the land. As a result of their efforts to highlight the value of the park’s history, the city established the Virginia Key Beach Park Trust to oversee its future development.

Since it officially reopened to the public in 2008, Historic Virginia Key Beach Park has become a popular site for everything from ecosystem restoration projects to large music festivals. In a recent conversation with Invest: Miami, Guy Forchion, the park’s executive director, highlighted the park’s value as a community center.  

“Historic Virginia Key Beach Park is a community meeting space, which is historically what this spot has been for communities of color in the past,” Forchion explained. “It was a space for the African-American communities and people of color; now it is a space for everyone. A lot of community activities, dialogues and fellowship can happen here.”

The park recently hosted the 2018 House of Creatives Music and Arts Festival last November, which featured regional, national and international music groups, including big names such as Foster the People and MIA. The festival also showcased local cuisine with an array of vendors from various restaurants in the area. This event came on the heels of the widely publicized announcement that the park would be the future site of the famous Ultra Music Festival, which traditionally has been held in downtown Miami’s Bayfront Park.

Outside of providing a fantastic venue for music and arts festivals, the park is also crucial to the study of sea-level rise. “There has been an incredible change in our shoreline in just the last eight years,” Forchion explained. “Virginia Key is one of the monitoring locations for sea-level rise, and much of the research and studies happen close to us. Sea-level rise is being tracked, and it’s actually moving a bit faster in South Florida than most of the public timelines predicted. We are taking these things into consideration with the facility we are building.”

The facility Forchion is referring to is the museum that park officials hoped to start building back in 2008 to showcase the park’s history. However, due to the recession, in 2009 the City of Miami halted funding for the park, which now relies heavily on corporate philanthropy and private donors to maintain operations.

To help preserve the park’s legacy and enrich its future, locals can make donations to the park by visiting: https://virginiakeybeachpark.net/donate/

 

The Reliability of Natural Gas

By staff writer

January 2019

With the American public concerned about the future of its energy and power source, natural gas remains an immediately viable option. Both domestically and internationally, natural gas is known for being an accessible, reliable and resilient supply network.

The infrastructure for natural gas offers dependable and diverse options. Providers are able to supply gas through pipelines or by shipments of liquefied natural gas (LNG), as well as other methods, with few technological limitations. For these reasons, natural gas remains one of the more viable energy sources available today.

What’s more, natural gas also happens to be among the precious few commodities in life that have actually gone down in price. Due to the large supply available, natural gas has been decreasing in price for many years now.

“We have over a 100-year supply of natural gas,” Carolyn Bermudez, vice president and general manager at Florida City Gas, told Invest: Miami when she sat down with our team in early December. “We’re seeing some of the lowest prices for natural gas that we’ve ever seen, and because of that, natural gas is being used more now by electric utilities as their fuel source to produce electricity. With supply and demand as high as they currently are, we remain optimistic about the price remaining consistently low.”

Florida City Gas, which joined the NextEra Energy family in July 2018, is one of the largest providers of natural gas in the market. “In the past year, we converted nearly 100 of Miami-Dade Transit’s bus fleet to compressed natural gas (CNG) with more to come in the following years,” Bermudez said.

In addition to improving and investing in infrastructure, Bermudez says that Florida City Gas will continue to focus on prudent and effective cost management: “As Miami-Dade’s communities continue to grow and demand for natural gas service increases, Florida City Gas must meet our commitments to deliver clean, safe, reliable and affordable natural gas to our customers.”

With a new year beginning, many South Florida residents are considering switching to natural gas to power their lives. Florida City Gas is currently offering substantial rebates for residential and commercial customers who switch to natural gas or replace old natural gas appliances.

For more information on our interviewee and FCG’s rebates, visit: https://www.floridacitygas.com/

 

Next-Generation Startups

By staff writer

January 2019

Miami’s growing reputation as a startup hub is no secret. The Miami/Fort Lauderdale/Pompano Beach region was ranked number one on the Kauffman Foundation’s 2017 Index of Startup Activity among 40 metropolitan areas. Furthermore, the city garnered a wealth of publicity when it was considered as a host for Amazon’s HQ2 site last year.

“I’m very happy with how the startup market in Miami has been evolving,” said Olivier Grinda, founder and CEO of local startup Home61, a digital real estate brokerage company, when he recently sat down with the Invest: Miami team. “The market now represents the first generation of startups i.e., those like us that came here in 2015-2017. Thanks to the work of local investors who decided to take a chance on the city back then, businesses such as ours were given the platform to grow and recruit employees.”

Thanks to decisions made over the last decade by local organizations and co-working spaces such as the Knight Foundation, Refresh Miami, LAB Miami and Pipeline, among others, the city was provided a foundation on which to grow its tech sector. However, there are other factors driving the city’s appeal for those looking to found or invest in startups.

When Invest: spoke with Richard Lavina, co-founder and CEO of Miami-based startup Taxfyle which has been the number one tax-time app in the App Store for the past three years he pointed to the city’s relatively low cost of living as a key asset for startup activity.

“$1 million doesn’t go as far in Silicon Valley as it does here in Miami,” Lavina explained. “Cost of living is cheaper, so people hired to come here can experience a better quality of life for lower pay.”

The low cost of living, favorable tax laws, weather and geographic location all work to ensure the city’s long-term appeal for startups, thus giving way for an upcoming “second generation” of startups over the next decade, which, according to Grinda, will further stabilize the local startup market and allow for continued growth.

“The city, which was once generally considered to be nothing more than a vacation destination, will grow into an intricate and diverse business center,” Grinda stated.

Given the city’s penchant for innovation and the velocity at which its tech sector has flourished, surely we can look forward to this second generation being just as robust and groundbreaking as the first. For more information on our interviewees and the local startups they founded, visit https://www.home61.com/real-estate and https://taxfyle.com/.

 

Dynamic Offerings

By staff writer

January 2019 — 2 min. read

Miami’s higher education system is as dynamic as the city itself, and the University of Miami Business School is no exception. The school’s enrollment rate shot up 12 percent last year, and with that growth has come revamped curricula and new degree program offerings catering to international students, future sustainability officers and aspiring entrepreneurs.

Given that the school is the only higher education institution in the country that offers a Spanish-language Global Executive MBA program, which is designed for professionals with experience in the field, it should come as no surprise that the school is appealing to international professionals and their families looking to further integrate themselves within the local business ecosystem.

 

“Many high-net-worth individuals including family business leaders from throughout the Americas have second homes in Miami,” Miami Business School Dean John Quelch told Invest: Miami when he sat down with our team. “For those working here already, we offer our new part-time Professional MS in Finance as well as our Professional MBA. We are offering students multiple ways to earn high-quality specialist or general management Masters degrees faster, better and cheaper.”

Quelch pointed to the city’s “growing entrepreneurial spirit” as a key driver of the school’s growth, and the school is wasting no time in following suit with this trend.

“We are much more integrated into the Miami entrepreneurship ecosystem than we were one or two years ago,” Quelch explained. “We have made significant upgrades to our business plan and hope to soon launch a Canes Angel fund that will be directed at startups involving our students and alumni. We’re also upgrading our entrepreneurship curricula to include more experiential learning and case-based teaching.”

Quelch added that the school expects to open a center for entrepreneurship by 2020, if funding is forthcoming. Furthermore, the school will be starting its STEM-certified Master of Science in Sustainable Business degree program next August, which according to Quelch will be “the first STEM-certified M.S. in sustainable business degree in the country.”

The program will integrate climate science, law, engineering and public policy into its teachings of business sustainability and will train graduates for careers in industries such as energy, manufacturing and healthcare. Its establishment speaks to the school’s commitment to ensuring long-term success for its students in the local market, as well as its and its ability to satisfy the demands of the city’s dynamic business landscape.

To learn more about our interviewee, as well as new developments and course offerings from Miami Business School, visit https://www.bus.miami.edu/.

 

 

The Underline is Underway

By staff writer

December 2018 – 2 min. read

December 2018 — Miami’s Underline officially broke ground in November 2018. The city’s version of Manhattan’s famed High Line has already begun phase one of its five-phase development plan, with the first phase currently underway in Brickell. The project, which was proposed just five years ago, has received massive support from the state, city, county and local community and is expected to create thousands of jobs.

The idea for the project originated when Meg Daly — founder and CEO of Friends of the Underline, the nonprofit organization behind the project — suffered a serious injury that forced her to rely on the Metrorail to get to and from physical therapy.

In doing so, she noticed how wide the area under the tracks was and how much shade the tracks offered, and thus the idea for the Underline was born.

“2019 will see construction of the first half mile of the Underline’s Brickell Backyard,” said Daly in a recent conversation with Invest: Miami. “2019 will also see the second phase from Brickell to Coconut Grove in the design phase.”

The park will run for 10 miles underneath Miami’s Metrorail and span over 120 acres, stretching from downtown Miami to Dadeland. It strives to provide an alternative mode of transportation for civilians in the area, as well as foster community engagement and recreation. In addition to offering biking and walking trails, dog parks, playgrounds and outdoor gyms, the project will also showcase the city’s blooming art scene.

“Led by Friends of the Underline Art Advisory, in collaboration with Miami-Dade County Art in Public Places and curated by Ximena Caminos, the Underline’s public art will feature local, national and international emerging and established artists that will engage and connect visitors to place and each other,” Daly told Invest:.

The project’s goal of offering alternative transportation to civilians while also providing ease of access to the city’s metrorail is significant due to the city’s traffic issues. The South Florida Business Journal reported that Miami drivers spent an average of 64.8 hours in traffic last year, according to a report from Intrix Inc., which also estimated that this congestion costs local drivers an average of $1,762 a year.

Given the project’s potential to alleviate some of the city’s traffic and its potential for job creation, it should come as no surprise that it has received massive support at both the state and local levels. Phases one and two have been funded by Miami-Dade County, the State of Florida and the City of Miami. Phase one also yielded funding from the Florida Department of Transportation. Earlier this month, the Knight Foundation awarded Friends of the Underline $500,000. With the total costs of construction estimated to be around $120 million, however, there is still plenty of room for the public to take part in the project.

“Supporters can generously donate at theUnderline.org/donate and/or attend our many community-building events, including health and wellness programs sponsored by Baptist Health South Florida, support of our four-legged friends on February 2, 2019 and attend our upcoming Underline non-gala in the fall 2019,” said Daly.

Phase one is expected to be completed by June 2020. Given the project’s velocity thus far, it shows no signs of delay or slowing down.

 

For more information on the project, our interviewee and ways to donate, visit www.theunderline.org.

Art Basel Miami Beach: Gateway to the World

By staff writer
December 2018 – 2 min. read

December 2018 – Miami is known to many as the “Gateway to Latin America.” While the city has always been regarded as an international hub, its global footprint has grown in recent years, particularly in terms of arts and culture. A key contributor to this is Art Basel Miami Beach, an annual December art show that packs the city with international tourists.

With the 2018 edition of the show happening December 6-9, and Miami Art Week kicking off on December 3 and closing on December 10, Miami residents far and wide are preparing themselves for seven days of nonstop art, events and high-profile parties that bring in influential figures (and street traffic) from around the world.

In 2017, Miami’s Basel saw the likes of Cardi B, Drake and Paris Hilton, with showcased art by Andy Warhol and Basquiat.

 

The show attracted 82,000 visitors to the city — nearly triple that of the 30,000 seen in 2002, the show’s first year — and showcased 268 galleries with artwork from 32 countries. This year’s show will be just as broad and diverse as that of previous years, and many of the galleries will highlight social, political and cultural issues, with themes such as colonialism and post-colonialism, gender politics, immigration, feminism, climate change and racial inequality.

Since its establishment, the show has spurred the growth of other art fairs and events in Miami, all of which occur during the same week. The effect is what has become known as the “Basel halo.”

When Capital Analytics sat down with Kieran Bowers, president of Swire Properties Inc., he pointed to the fact that Basel, and the dozens of other events under its “halo,” help to stimulate Miami’s tourism industry during a time when most other cities experience a lull in such activity — i.e., post-Thanksgiving through the beginning of December.

“Basel started as a Miami Beach proposition, and now it has broadened to many parts of the city as a celebration of art in general,” Bowers stated. “It’s a huge positive boost for the city in a period where other cities are in a post-holiday lull. There is a large influx of businesspeople and cognoscenti, domestic and international, that brings an outside investment boost to the city’s retail, hotels and restaurants.”

Miami’s arts and tourism industries are now more robust than ever before, and it is events like Art Basel that help ensure the long-term growth and sustainability of these sectors by furthering the city’s exclusivity and global appeal. Given the velocity of Art Basel Miami Beach’s popularity, one can expect this year’s show to be the largest and grandest yet.

For more information about Art Basel Miami Beach, visit www.artbasel.com/miami-beach

For more information regarding our interviewees, please visit their websites:
Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau: www.miamiandbeaches.com/
Swire Properties:
www.swireproperties.com.

 

 

Midterm Madness

By staff writer
November 8, 2018 – 2 min. read

Tuesday’s midterm elections attracted record numbers of voters, with estimates putting the count at 113 million. This historic turnout brought 110 female winners, the country’s first openly gay governor and more than 30 flipped seats in Congress, but it also underscored the deep and often contentious divide facing our nation. Capital Analytics has been keeping a close eye on the results, particularly those affecting our markets in Florida, Georgia and Pennsylvania.

One of the biggest takeaways is the Democrats regaining control of the House, surpassing the 23 seats necessary for majority rule by more than 10. In Florida, former University of Miami president Donna Shalala won the 27th District previously held by Republican representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, edging out Republican opponent Maria Elvira Salazar. Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell also won over Republican Carlos Curbelo in Florida’s 26th District. Pennsylvania saw three seats flipped by Democrats Mary Scanlon in the 5th District, Conor Lamb in the 17th District and Chrissy Houlahan in the 6th District.

Two congressional races in Georgia remained too close to call Wednesday evening, the first in the 6th District, where Republican Karen Handel is seeking reelection but trailed Democrat Lucy McBath 49.55 percent to 50.45 percent. In the 7th District, Republican Rob Woodall and Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux were in a similar position, with Woodhall holding a slight lead of 50.23 percent over Bourdeaux’s 49.77 percent. Georgia law requires a recount if the final vote margin is 1 percent or less, according to the Associated Press. Both campaigns are waiting for absentee ballots to be counted in hopes of naming a clear winner.

Though the House succumbed to the “blue wave,” the GOP not only retained control of the Senate but also bolstered it with a number of key victories in states like Indiana, North Dakota and Missouri. In Florida, the hotly contested race between Republican former governor Rick Scott and incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson is heading for automatic recount. According to unofficial returns posted on Wednesday by the state Division of Elections, Scott held a 30,239-vote lead out of 8.1 million ballots cast — a difference of just .38 percent. In Florida, if the margin in a race is less than .5 percent, a recount is automatically triggered. The Senate race might not be the only one to move to recount, either. Florida’s agriculture commissioner contest between Republican Matt Caldwell and Democrat Nikki Fried is even tighter, with Caldwell carrying a slim .16 percent lead on Wednesday evening.

While Tom Wolf comfortably won reelection in Pennsylvania, the Florida and Georgia governor’s races were much more hotly contested. In Florida, Democrat Andrew Gillum conceded to Republican opponent Ron DeSantis early on Wednesday, but by late Wednesday DeSantis’s lead had narrowed to a margin of just .57 percent. However, this still remained outside of the .5 percent margin that requires a recount under Florida law. Votes were still being counted on Thursday morning, and if the margin falls below .5 percent, a recount will be triggered.

Georgia’s gubernatorial race is even closer, with Democrat Stacey Abrams refusing to concede to Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R) and vowing to “fight for every vote.” While Kemp’s campaign declared victory to reporters on Wednesday evening, the Abrams campaign readied its legal team to challenge the election results. A runoff, if it comes to that, would be held on December 4.

Even as heated battles underscored the increasingly polarized nature of U.S. politics, culminating in a divided Congress, the 2018 midterms marked a new high for women taking seats in the chamber, with 98 women projected to win in the House and 12 in the Senate. Even more notable is the fact that 34 of these women are newly elected members of Congress. This “pink wave” includes 29-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman in history to take a seat in Congress, serving New York’s 14th District. In Pennsylvania, a record-breaking four women are projected to win seats in the House. This is particularly momentous considering not a single woman currently represents the state in the House. Women are also projected to win in nine gubernatorial races (not counting Stacey Abrams, who is still vying to become the country’s first female African-American governor).

In addition to the inroads made by women, there has also been a noticeable push for diversity in public office. Two Muslim women and two Native American women will take seats in Congress, and Colorado’s Jared Polis (D) will become the country’s first openly gay governor. Overall, more than 100 LGBTQ candidates claimed victory on Tuesday night, indicating changing attitudes toward how voters think about both LGBTQ candidates and rights. Exit polls suggest that voter diversity also hit all-time highs for midterm elections, with the non-white vote estimated at 28 percent. (For perspective, in 1990 non-white voters accounted for just 9 percent of the vote.)

While some races remain too close to call and others were resounding losses or victories, depending on which side of the party line you walk, the fact that so many people showed up to vote is something all parties can be proud of. We’ll be keeping an eye on the tight races in Florida and Georgia and looking forward to what’s in store in 2020.

 

Surprise Win in the Sunshine State Primaries

By staff writer
August 29, 2018  – 2 min. read

In the wake of last night’s primaries, Florida has quickly become the setting of one of 2018’s most important governor’s races. In the hotly contested Democratic primary, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum prevailed over former member of Congress Gwen Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and businessman Jeff Greene to advance as the Democratic candidate. In November, he will go up against Trump-backed Republican Ron DeSantis in a contest that election forecasters predict will be a toss-up.

Gillum’s win came as a surprise to many. Going into the primary, he led no independent polls and trailed the field in fundraising. However, with 94 percent of the votes counted, he had a 3 percentage point lead over Graham, his closest rival. In Miami-Dade and Broward, the state’s two largest Democratic counties, he overwhelmed Graham by a margin of two to one with record turnouts at the polls.

Gillum, who is both young (age 39) and ideologically progressive, would be the first black governor of Florida, and he has already made history as Florida’s first black nominee for governor. The foundation of his campaign centered on a message of social justice, raising the downtrodden and appealing to the state’s growing diversity. His agenda includes support for Medicare for all, raising the minimum wage and strong opposition to the Stand Your Ground self-defense law.

Looking ahead to November’s election, Gillum’s work is cut out for him. While Florida’s population is growing and the state’s demographics are changing rapidly, Florida has not elected a Democratic governor since 1994, and the state voted for Donald Trump in the last presidential election.

Like Gillum, Republican candidate Ron DeSantis is young (also 39), and his opponent, Adam Putnam, outspent him two to one in the primary campaign. But that might be where their similarities end. An Iraq war veteran with a strong conservative record, DeSantis’s campaign largely rested on his Florida credentials (he was first elected to the U.S. Congress in 2012) and his vow to continue the economic progress he credits to outgoing Governor Rick Scott. He supports tighter restrictions on illegal immigration and staunchly supports the Second Amendment.

The stage is set for a clear ideological contest in November’s gubernatorial race in one of the country’s major presidential battleground states. 2018 is certainly shaping up to be an exciting midterm election year, and Invest: Miami, Invest: Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County and Invest: Tampa Bay will be keeping a close eye on the races in Florida.