Miami Dade County is pushing to curb rental unaffordability.
Mayor Daniella Levine Cava declared a housing crisis on Friday, setting the stage for the county to distribute $41 million in federal funds as rental assistance.
The county is feeling the squeeze from skyrocketing rents.
That followed a population influx and ensuing high demand over the past year and a half.
Miami rents climbed 38 percent in 2021, the highest gain nationwide, according to a Zumper report.
The issue is exacerbated because many of the transplants kept their higher-paying out-of-state jobs, making them better positioned to afford rising rents.
Local incomes have long lagged those of residents in places like New York and Los Angeles.
Miami-Dade’s median income is $61,000, compared to $80,000 in Los Angeles County and $81,700 in New York.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Florida law prohibits local governments from imposing rent-control measures, allowing for the unbridled hikes.
An exemption could be made if a municipality or county provides a well-researched rationale as to why rates should be capped.
And then puts the issue to a referendum, according to Michael Liu, Miami-Dade’s director of public housing and community development.
Even if it passes, then the rent control would last for a maximum of one year.
To qualify for rental assistance, renters have to earn no more than 80 percent of the area median income.
That equates to maximum earnings of $50,650 for a one-person household; $57,850 for a two-person household.
$65,100 for a three-person household; and $72,300 for a four-person household, according to the county.
HUD is expected to update the area median income soon, so the earning thresholds for qualifying renters could change.
Miami-Dade will give a preference to those earning 50 percent or less than the AMI-
-or $31,650 for a single-person household; $36,200 for a two-person home; and $40,700 for a three-person home.
The county will cover up to 20 percent of a rent increase for up to three months.
And could cover up to $3,000 a month for up to a year in back rent.
As the program aims to help those who are most vulnerable and already undergoing the eviction process in court, according to Liu.
Using previously allocated rental assistance funds from the federal government, Miami-Dade has been able to turn around an eviction proceeding in roughly 600 cases, Liu said.
“We are also going to be open to talking to landlords to reason with them and convince them that rent increases should not be exorbitant,” Liu told The Real Deal.
The county hopes that the 20 percent cap on covering rent increases will incentivize landlords to not hike rates beyond this.
If a landlord increases rent by 30 percent or 40 percent, and the county only covers 20 percent.
The remaining balance has to come from somewhere, Liu said.
But if the tenant can’t afford it, then the county hopes the landlord would cap increases at 20 percent instead of initiating eviction proceedings and potentially losing an otherwise reliable tenant, he said.
The $41 million in emergency rental assistance partly comes from the $28 million that remains in the county’s total allocation from the American Rescue Plan Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law in March 2021.
The other $13 million is money from the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which was disbursed for the 2021 fiscal year.
Although the county allocated its initial Consolidated Appropriations disbursement, the $13 million is money the federal government recaptured from other U.S. jurisdictions that did not spend the funds pursuant to specified timelines, according to Liu.
In total, Miami-Dade has doled out $105 million in rental assistance for 17,200 families since the onset of Covid-19, Liu said.
Funds have come from the American Rescue Plan; Consolidated Appropriations Act.
And the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, which was enacted in March 2020.
Under the latest rental assistance program, either a landlord or a tenant can apply.
But unlike in previous programs, tenants do not need the landlord’s approval for the funds to be disbursed.
“We think we will probably exhaust this tranche of money by early next year or maybe sooner,” Liu said.
The county also is betting on getting additional American Rescue Plan funds recaptured from other jurisdictions.
That did not use the money in time, he added.
To inquire about or apply for rental assistance, residents can email ERAP@miamidade.gov, visit https://www.miamidade.gov/global/housing/emergency-rental-assistance-program.page or call 305-723-1815.