Monday, February 8, 2016

The loss of affordable South Beach apartments is a setback for Miami Beach's sustainability

In 2013 I wrote a post Miami Beach bikes (and walks) to work about why affordable housing matters for sustainability on Miami Beach.Not many people know that Miami Beach is one of the top cities in the country in the percentage of residents who get to work by walking or biking. Service industry workers are to thank for the city's high ranking on this measure - roughly half walk or bike to their jobs in hotels and restaurants. And the fact that so many are able to get to work without driving is a huge benefit to the city in terms of reduced traffic and pollution. 

But this is only possible because there is still enough housing, even in South Beach, that’s at least somewhat affordable for hotel and restaurant workers. Until recently it was still possible to get a studio or 1-bedroom for around $1,000 a month. That’s still a high rent for someone making minimum wage, but the census data shows that some are able to make it work. Perhaps that’s because paying more to live in South Beach saves a 2-3 hour commute by bus from less expensive neighborhoods, or the expense and hassle of a car.  

But last week the Miami Herald reported that 15 of these buildings were sold to a developer who plans to renovate them and increase rents by 35%-50%, effectively displacing probably hundreds of working class residents. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

White paper: A Social Vulnerability Perspective on Climate Change Adaptation in Miami-Dade

The purpose of this white paper is to provide an overview of the ways in which South Florida communities are vulnerable to climate change, and to suggest strategies for adaptation that increase resilience of vulnerable communities. This paper is grounded in a human security perspective of vulnerability, in contrast to other perspectives that focus on the natural or built environment. I argue that focusing on the human dimensions of vulnerability can accomplish climate change adaptation and mitigation goals while providing co-benefits that improve opportunity and quality of life in the present, resulting in greater resilience than strategies that do not take social vulnerability into account. The paper provides locally specific information that will help to guide research, curriculum development, and community engagement activities around climate change impacts and resilience.

Download the pdf of the white paper here.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

What’s the problem with scary sea level rise articles?

Communicating climate change, part 1

In the last week at least 6 of my friends have posted this article on Facebook.

People commented. “How scary.” “Scary as shit.”

Being scary was clearly the intention of the article. Miami’s future with rising seas is described with words like “calamitous” and “mayhem.”

Fear can be a good motivator, but the question is what kind of action is motivated by this fear? Does this fear motivate action that will mitigate climate change? Or does it do something else?

Friday, February 13, 2015

Reduced funding for housing programs undermines Amendment 1's conservation goals

Reposted from University of Miami Office of Civic and Community Engagement

Last November Amendment 1 passed with resounding support, with 75% approval by voters. The amendment created a dedicated source of funding for environmental conservation by setting aside 33% of doc stamp taxes on real estate transactions. As one conservation organization put it, this “great bipartisan victory reflects the understanding of Florida voters that protecting our natural resources protects our economy.”

But a new bill in the state legislature to implement Amendment 1 may end up undermining conservation goals. The bill would significantly reduce the amount of funding going to the Housing Trust Fund, which also receives funding from doc stamp collections. Under the 1992 Sadowski Act 16% of doc stamp collections are set aside for housing programs such as homeownership assistance and affordable rental housing construction and rehabilitation, sorely needed in a state with quickly rising housing costs and large affordability gaps. But SB 586 would take the percentage of doc stamp collections for Amendment 1 before the percentage for housing programs, effectively reducing the amount going to the Housing Trust Fund.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Does this change everything? Photos from the People's Climate March

The slogan for last Sunday's People's Climate March was “To change everything we need everyone.” Official estimates were that 400,000 people participated in the march, far and away the largest environmental protest ever, and the largest demonstration of any kind in a decade. So does this change everything? Probably not – at least not this week at the UN. But it does change at least two things:

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Environmental and Climate Justice in Florida

This is a presentation I created for a meeting of the NAACP Florida on May 31. It covers environmental and climate justice issues in Florida and some opportunities for increasing equity in the adaptation planning process.

Download the presentation here.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Are Miami's condos and apartments at a disadvantage for storm proofing?

A recent Atlantic Cities piece Why It's so Hard to Storm-Proof an Apartment Building highlights the disadvantages faced by multifamily apartment, condominium and co-op buildings when it comes to getting funds for repairs and protecting against future storms. After Sandy, single family homeowners are applying for FEMA funds for repairs to houses damaged by storm surge but multifamily buildings are not eligible for funds to repair common areas and utility systems. This is despite the fact that more than two-thirds of the New York housing units in the Sandy storm surge area were in multifamily buildings. What's more, New Jersey created a state fund that makes money available for raising homes above the flood plain-- an increasingly common plan in flood-prone areas, especially those dealing with higher flood insurance rates-- but this fund will primarily benefit single family homeowners since it's usually impractical to raise multifamily buildings.  

Along with the many other lessons from Sandy, Miami should be paying attention to this one too. Just like plenty of other cities in the path of hurricanes along the Atlantic coast, Miami has large concentrations of multifamily buildings. According to the latest census data about 38% of Miami households are in buildings with at least 3 units. There are certainly things that multifamily buildings can do to become more resilient to floods, like moving utility rooms off the ground floor and installing mechanisms for moving elevator cars out of harm's way. Cities like Miami Beach have included many of these features in their building codes for new housing, but older buildings need sources of funding to undertake expensive retrofits.