By Jai-Leen James, Contributing Reporter
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – The Miami Beach City Commission voted to approve the start of negotiations to build an artist-focused housing project in Miami Beach during the city commission meeting Wednesday, July 17th. Two bidders have expressed interest in managing the project – Atlantic Pacific Communities, LLC and Servitas, LCC.
“I find that Atlantic Pacific has a significantly stronger proven track record of successfully developing and managing workforce housing projects locally,” Miami Beach City Planner Jimmy Morales wrote in his recommendation. Morales and an evaluation committee recommended Atlantic Pacific Communities over rival bidder Servitas.
“In Miami-Dade County alone, Atlantic Pacific has extensive experience developing public-private housing projects totaling over 1,800 units.”
Atlantic Pacific Communities is an affiliate of Atlantic Pacific Companies, a fourth-generation family owned real estate company with over 125 years of experience. The firm owns more than $2 billion in real estate and has developed over 11,100 affordable and mixed-income housing units.
Based in Texas, Servitas, LLC has developed an estimated $1 billion in projects. The firm maintains the largest student housing public-private partnership in the nation and has served more than 45 systems and institutions in 15 states. In the past four years, Servitas has developed more than $600 million in new on-campus housing.
“Servitas appears to primarily be focused on the college/university dormitory sector and does not appear to have developed any workforce housing projects locally or nationally,” Morales wrote.
“I am also concerned with the language in Servitas’ proposal which claims that ‘Miami City Ballet will be the tax-exempt owner of the facility.’ Again, while the Administration welcomes a partnership with the Miami City Ballet on this project, at no time has it considered transferring ownership of the project.”
Since 2016, Miami Beach has been trying to develop affordable housing on the 19,750 square foot plot of land north of Collins Park. Currently, the land under consideration is a parking lot, east of the Miami City Ballet. In the agenda, Morales stated that the city hopes Miami City Ballet would also be part of the project.
The city’s proposed terms requests that the housing be marketed towards employees of local art institutions and educators. The target population for this project may earn up to 140 percent Area Median Income (AMI) and rent should not exceed 30 percent of the AMI targeted incomes.
The project would be structured as a fifty-year lease, with two twenty-year renewals. The final agreement is subject to the approval of the Planning Board and the City Commission.
According to a report conducted by the Creative Class Group and Florida International University’s College of Communication, Architecture and The Arts, Miami is on the brink of a housing affordability crisis. “There’s a huge debate around what is affordable housing,” said Steven Pedigo, co-author of the report.
“We can talk about it for the poorest of the poor, or for workforce housing. That whole definition of how we deal with it is up there. A general rule of thumb is, how does someone live with a good quality of life? You don’t want residents spending more than thirty percent of income on housing.”
According to figures from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s fair-market rent analysis, a two-bedroom unit in the Greater Miami Metropolitan Area rented for $1,351 in 2018 and $1,454 in 2019.
In addition to high rent costs, climate change and sea-level rise has the potential to worsen Greater Miami’s housing affordability crisis over time.
According to Pedigo’s report, parts of South Florida may become uninhabitable due to rising sea levels and would result in greater pressure on the remaining housing availability.