By Jai-Leen James, Contributing Reporter
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – The Miami Beach Land Use and Development Committee gave the initial approval Wednesday, June 5th to legalize rentals of accessory dwelling units, or guest-apartments. Prior to the ordinance, the practice was illegal in the city.
Sponsored by Commissioner Ricky Arriola, the proposed law would permit homeowners to rent guest homes in all single – family neighborhoods. The Miami Beach Planning Department defines accessory dwelling units as “small living rooms” that have their own bathroom and kitchen.
Homeowners may lease the vacant apartment for more than six months at a time. The rental unit must be on the same property as the main house but can be attached or detached. Homeowners can also build a rental unit on to their existing property given that it meets certain size requirements yet to be specified.
Due to rising housing costs, city officials hope the accessory dwellings create affordable housing options for renters. If passed, the proposal could help meet the city’s goal of 6,000 new affordable housing units.
“This is right on so many levels. If we’re talking about affordable, work-force housing this is one way of addressing it,” said Arriola.
“If we want to help create some economic vitality in these older homes, particularly for the older couples that may be living in them who don’t have the economic means anymore,” he added.
Currently, Florida state law allows accessory dwelling units in cities with a recognized shortage of affordable rental housing. Before beginning construction, homeowners must sign an affidavit promising to rent to moderate- or low-income tenants at a reasonable cost in order to receive a building permit.
In Miami-Dade County, the Florida Housing Finance Corporation defines an affordable rate for a one-bedroom apartment as up to $1,771.
Throughout the past year, rent increases have been occurring across the entire Miami metropolitan area. According to a report by Apartment Lists, Miami rents have increased 0.8 percent over the past month and are up marginally by 0.7 percent in comparison to the same time last year.
Many homes built prior to World War II have dwelling units attached. However, after the war, the practice of leasing those properties was made illegal in many cities across the country, including Miami Beach. According to the Miami-Dade Property Appraiser, Miami Beach has an estimated 320 single-family lots with accessory dwelling units.
The proposed law would only permit homeowners to rent out guest homes if they are actively living in the main house. This is suggested in effort to dissuade residents renting to partiers.
Current law prevents residents from renting to tenants for six months or less in most residential regions, and violators may be subjected to fines that start at $20,000.
“Neighborhood associations evidently just got wind of it now and some of them have concerns about their neighbors now having units on their property where they will be renting them and who’s going to make sure it’s really six months and a day as opposed to becoming short-term rentals,” said Commissioner Joy Malakoff.
The final vote for the law is schedule for next month at the city land use and development committee meeting.