The resources and regulatory powers held by governments give them tremendous power to remedy historic inequities and lay the groundwork for future equitable development and growth. However, because public officials and agency staff inherit inequitable systems, policies, and processes and are beholden to a wide range of interests and constituents, changemaking often originates outside of government. Miami’s story highlights the dynamic interplay between people trying to change a system from positions inside and outside of government.
Over the last decade in Miami, the concomitant threats of rising housing costs and climate change have placed extraordinary pressures on family budgets and begun to tear into the cultural fabric of neighborhoods that have anchored Black and brown communities for generations. Studies commissioned by the city clearly articulated the problems: the housing market was too expensive for too many residents; the people who faced the biggest burdens were low-income service workers and people of color; and the climate crisis was pushing up property values in the historically Black and Brown neighborhoods, such as Little Haiti, Liberty City, and Allapattah, that sit on a ridge protected from the rising sea. Miami’s housing advocacy organizations began calling on elected officials to develop a coherent response. Over two dozen organizations signed onto the Public Land for Public Good statement, which ran as an op-ed in the Miami Herald, and groups across the city fought major projects they believed would accelerate gentrification and displacement pressures for families and small businesses.
CCI’s Miami Connect Capital Team, led by Miami Homes for All and Miami’s Department of Housing and Community Development, began crafting a framework based on a set of emerging solutions proposed by advocacy organizations and groups as well as insights from city agency staff. They developed a set of strategic results—to produce or preserve affordable homes for 210,000 households by 2030, with specific targets for the populations facing the greatest inequities and cost burdens—and analyzed a pipeline of local housing deals. The pipeline analysis highlighted the fact that while large developers were successfully securing tax credit deals and building affordable housing, smaller developers of color faced the biggest hurdles trying to bring their projects to life.
In the Spring of 2019, Miami Homes for All released their report and framework and held a press conference with Mayor Suarez. After nearly a decade of work, advocates had successfully created the political pressure to push the city to prioritize a response to the affordable housing crisis. At that point, the Mayor’s public support created the energy and momentum to actualize the vision created by advocates and agency staff. Within a year, the city and county had released an affordable housing master plan and reoriented their strategy for disposal of public lands, selling sizable property portfolios to affordable housing developers.
The change we see in Miami today is a culmination of a many years of hard work on a thoughtful inside/outside strategy. While there remains plenty of room to grow and improve, the results show how the work of a cross-sector group encouraged different stakeholders to tear down their silos, supported the development of a shared strategy, and helped elevate affordable housing into a city and county priority.