Miami Today: “Commissioner calls for affordable housing summit”

To infuse new ideas into housing, Miami-Dade Commissioner Dennis Moss is calling for an “affordable housing summit” where decision-makers and experts can jointly target solutions.

On Monday, at the first Housing, Social Services and Economic Development Committee meeting, Mr. Moss, the chairman, said he also wants county departments to submit “reaching” ideas that “would really make a difference.”

“I’m asking people to think outside of the box, [and] I don’t want you to come with small projects,” he said. “For example, [I hope] our housing agency… will come back and say they’re prepared to build 10,000 units of housing this year.”

But no matter how much is built, Commissioner Jean Monestime said, land is finite and gentrification is pressing.

“The cry-out is very loud,” he said. “We have an unlimited amount of need but very limited… space.”

Commissioner Xavier Suarez recommended inviting “important other municipalities” – specifically Miami, whose voters in November 2017 OK’d a $400 million Forever Bond with $100 million for affordable housing and economic development.

Vice Chairwoman Eileen Higgins seconded that suggestion, adding that Little Havana in her district has the city’s highest percentage of natural affordable housing but could grow unaffordable as developers scoop up property.

She said she was also working with Public Housing Director Michael Liu to “co-collaborate” with the city in densifying county land in the city to add “more than 1,000 new affordable units.”

As skyrocketing costs and prohibitive down payments force young adults to remain at their parents’ home, Commissioner Joe Martinez said he was less optimistic.

“I know the feds have their own definition, but what is exactly affordable?” he asked. “I don’t know if we can tackle that, because supply and demand, and we do have a capitalist society.”

Miami Today: “Eileen Higgins: Brings her business experience to the county commission”

Eileen Higgins stays busy. The freshman Miami-Dade commissioner, now seven months into representing District 5, works long hours and makes it a point every week to visit all parts of her district, made up of portions of Miami, Miami Beach and unincorporated Fisher Island.

This year, in her first full legislative session, Ms. Higgins will serve on the Housing, Social Services and Economic Development; Transportation and Finance; and Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs committees, as well as the Community Disparities Subcommittee.

She is excited about all four assignments, she said, but is especially eager to work on two she asked for specifically, albeit for different reasons.

“Some of the strong leaders on the commission, who understand housing deeply and are the biggest advocates, will term out in 2020. I want to learn from them because I’ll be here in 2021, God willing,” she said. “On transportation, I provide a different perspective. I am a true transit rider in all its forms. I don’t just ride the train.”

Those issues and others she’ll address, she said, are intrinsic to improving the overall quality of life here, and she plans to use the diverse experience she gained prior to serving in elected public office in developing novel solutions to age-old quandaries.

“I tell people I have a split personality, but there’s only two,” she said. “I intend to approach things thinking about, ‘How do we make the economy grow?’ I have that business background. At the same time, [I ask], ‘How do we not leave people behind while we’re doing that?’ We can do both, and I have a career that’s proven that.”

Ms. Higgins sat down with Miami Today reporter Jesse Scheckner. The interview, recorded by Jahmoukie Dayle, can be found Friday at http://bit.ly/2uNHy0Q.