Writer: Liz Palmer
3 min read May 2022 — The residential real estate leaders of Broward County have taken matters into their own hands when it comes to housing availability. It’s no secret that the lack of inventory in South Florida has quickly turned into a crisis, with a new report released by Realtor.com showing rents in the region having risen 57.2% in the past year. Prospective homebuyers are no better off; the median home price in Broward County is now at $545,000, a 22.5% increase on year, according to the most recent report published by Broward, Palm Beaches & St. Lucie Realtors®.
While leaders in the luxury space are rushing to quench demand — for example, Naftali Group has begun putting down roots in Downtown Fort Lauderdale for a 70,000-square-foot residential development after paying $21 million for the site — this does little to accommodate workforce needs like those of essential workers. “Many people in public sector jobs — teachers, police officers, firefighters, bus drivers, hospital workers, nurses and other essential workers who should be treated as heroes on the frontlines of the pandemic — can’t even afford to live in the communities they serve,” wrote Jared Moskowitz, former director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, in an op-ed for the Sun Sentinel in April.
Dionna Hall, CEO of Broward, Palm Beaches & St. Lucie Realtors® and BeachesMLS, discussed the organization’s strategy on the issue in an interview with Invest: last month, touching on the “Local Hometown Heroes” program, launching July 1, 2022, that will provide affordable housing assistance. “This is a new revolving loan program for qualified firefighters, law enforcement officers, teachers, nurses and other hometown hero professions,” she said. “The program reduces the upfront costs for these homebuyers by providing zero-interest loans to help with their down payment and closing costs. The loan is repaid once the home is sold, rented or refinanced, creating a continuous cycle of homeownership for some of Florida’s most essential workers.”
Private sector leaders are also working to ensure everyone is able to live comfortably in the county. In terms of more affordable options, build-to-rent builds have gained popularity. Principal of New Urban Communities Timothy Hernandez sees the trend as a potentially sustainable option, but under the condition that they are rethinking the way communities currently operate, or fail to. “Many of these build-to-rent communities are repeating the same mistakes we’ve made, and are continuing to make, in the great post-WWII suburbanization of our country,” he told Invest: last month. “These communities are located on the fringe, they aren’t walkable, aren’t close to transit, they don’t include non-residential uses.” His solution is to rework the idea of dependence on cars, prioritizing mixed-use projects that are strategically placed on public transit routes where residents can easily reach necessities and entertainment.
Mitchell Rosenstein, founder and principal of Green Mills Group, told Invest: about the 7on7th project that will add 72 apartment units to the market in an accessible location. “We sign long-term affordability covenants for all of our communities,” he said. “So, for at least 30 years – but more likely for 50 years – we’re guaranteeing that our communities will maintain affordable rent and income restrictions.” The firm also partners with local government and nonprofit entities to strategize affordable housing options.
“Broward will get better and better as we’re able to redevelop and infill areas, providing a more diverse range of housing opportunities along the entire socio-economic spectrum in areas that are or will be served by transit,” Hernandez said. “That’s going to make a gigantic difference in our quality of life and over time will establish a greater sense of community for what is a fragmented region by better connecting us.”