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HOUSing Affordability

In February 2022, rental report noted that Miami-Dade County as the least affordable place to call home in the nation. Later on, HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge declared Miami as the epicenter of the housing crisis (Washington Post, 2022). Rising costs such as rent, insurance, and interest combined with stagnant wages have created a deep and persistent wealth gap in our community. While the aftermath of the pandemic and inflation may have exacerbated our existing affordability crisis, our most vulnerable low-income communities have taken the burnt of the impact through gentrification and displacement. Therefore advocating for deeply affordable housing--below 60% AMI (area median income)--has become a high priority for many frontline community-based and grassroots organizations.

Our mission member, Miami Homes for All, has been a key local leader among many in advocating this issue. Their 2020 report, Miami Affordable Housing Framework, anchors much of the on-going public policy advocacy the coalition supports. The solution is grounded in PALM: Preservation, Assistance, Land Use, and Money for Development. 

Workforce vs. Affordable Housing

As the housing crisis has negatively impacted more of the "middle class," public discourse has leaned towards a focus on "workforce housing." But what is the difference between workforce and affordable housing, and where is the biggest need? Housing is considered affordable when housing costs account for less than 30% of residents' income; paying more than that is considered cost burdened and paying more than 50% of income is severely cost burdened.

Housing affordability is measure by practitioners using the area median income (AMI) expressed as a percentage and adjusted for household size. This figured is mandated by HUD and based on the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) which uses metropolitan statistical area (MSA) to determine geographic footprints. Our local MSA is Miami-Ft. Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, otherwise known as South Florida region. Collectively, our MSA includes more than 6 million residents combined. Miami-Dade County's income limits, based on HUD's AMI, also determine eligibility for many subsidy programs and are updated annually. 

Typically, affordable housing refers to low-income resident's who would range below 80% of the AMI and deeply affordable would be below 60%. Below 30% is consider extremely-low-income (ELI) threshold and marks where public assistance such as housing vouchers or Section 8 are applicable. Workforce housing, on the other hand, generally represents the middle class with income roughly between 100-140%, which would be considered moderate income. Anything above 140% would be considered "market rate," which is where price points are driven by market demand rather than income levels.  

Public housing and affordable housing are technically two different categories and should not be conflated. Public housing typically involves support directly to the consumer through the form of vouchers and is qualified at the federal level. Affordable housing usually focuses subsidies to the developer on the back end of projects behind the scenes, which carries over cost benefits to end-consumers. 


Homeownership has long been central to the American Dream, a dream that has become increasingly elusive to immigrants, young professionals, and low-income communities. Yet, it remains one of the most essential pathways for financial stability and wealth generation. According to Forbes (2022), "household wealth among homeowners is a whopping 1,469% higher on average compared to renters." Several factors that have made ownership in South Florida a luxury for the few, including: 

  • Home inventory shortage
  • Homes being converted to rental
  • Labor and construction costs soaring
  • Land-use restrictions

Therefore advocating to increase homeownership opportunities is a key priority for our public policy platform. To learn more please join us for an upcoming policy roundtable. 

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