Sep 12, 2023 - News

Miami votes to pilot a unique model for affordable housing

SMASH's community land trust in Liberty City.

A SMASH property in Liberty City. Image: Courtesy of Adrian Madriz

The Miami-Dade County commission voted to establish a pilot community land trust (CLT) program last week with the goal of creating 50 units of affordable housing.

Why it matters: A CLT is a unique model of real estate that can help keep homes affordable for generations.

  • Miami is the least affordable metro in the U.S. The median list price for a home was $605,000 as of August, according to RealtyHop.
  • The county has a shortage of 135,000 affordable units for renter households earning half of the area's median income or less, Miami New Times reported.

How it works: In a typical CLT, a nonprofit acquires a piece of land through various ways, such as being granted the land or using donations to buy it at market rate, and then holds it in a trust for perpetuity. A low-income individual or family owns the home on top of it.

  • For a nominal fee, the nonprofit gives the homeowner a 99-year lease to use the land, which essentially confers the same benefits as ownership.
  • Having to pay for only the structure makes the price more affordable for homeowners.

Between the lines: The homeowner is allowed to later sell the home but only for a slight profit and to another low-income buyer, keeping the property affordable as it changes hands.

  • CLTs can be also structured as rentals, with tenants usually paying less than market rate.

What they're saying: Nonprofit Struggle for Miami's Affordable and Sustainable Housing (SMASH) runs a local CLT that provides rental housing for 14 people.

  • Co-executive director Adrian Madriz tells Axios, "Instead of people using housing as a piggy bank and refinancing every couple of years or trying to sell it for massive profit once they're done using it, it really stays permanently affordable for people who really need it the most."

What we're watching: The next step is for the mayor's office to identify land, funds and prospective partners for the pilot program.

  • Jennie Lopez, strategic initiatives manager in the office of Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, tells Axios the administration has also added incentives for CLTs to various affordable housing programs, and that the county has committed $4 million in affordable housing funds to a 13-unit CLT townhome project in Little Haiti.

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