Officials are considering a plan that would build affordable apartments for teachers near Wheatley Elementary in Miami.

Miami-Dade County floats plan to build affordable housing for teachers

March 27, 2018
District says too many teachers can't afford high housing costs in Miami.

Addressing a gap between teacher salaries and high housing prices in Miami, officials are exploring a plan to build apartments on school property and let faculty live there.

The Miami Herald reports that a preliminary proposal includes constructing a mid-rise middle school in the Brickell area with a floor devoted to residential units, and several more reserved for parking and the classrooms on top. If that is successful, Miami-Dade county would like to build a housing complex with as many as 300 apartments next to Phillis Wheatley Elementary.

“It’s an exciting idea,” says Michael Liu, Miami-Dade’s housing director. “Land is at a premium in Miami-Dade County. It’s difficult to come by, especially in the urban core.”

The county is in talks with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees some of the area's affordable-housing projects. JPMorgan Chase has given a $215,000 grant to the nonprofit Miami Homes For All to help develop the Wheatley plan.

Miami’s Omni Community Redevelopment Area, a downtown tax district, has voted to back a development agreement that would send dollars to the Wheatley project. 

Maimi-Dade County teachers would get priority for the apartments, but the district doesn’t plan to reserve units for faculty at the adjacent schools.

“You basically just walk around the corner, and you’re there,” says Jaime Torrens, the school system’s chief facilities officer.

The residential and educational facilities could share some recreational facilities after hours — such as playing fields or community rooms, but the buildings would be designed so that residents and the school populations couldn’t mix during the school day.

As the largest employer in the county, the school system has long cited housing prices as a top recruiting hurdle.

“When you look at teacher salaries, it’s just impossible for them to get into the housing market,” says Ned Murray, associate director of Florida International University’s Metropolitan Center, which studies the gap between income and housing in Miami.

The plan is to give teachers priority on the units, then the rest of the employees, says Lisa Martinez, chief strategy officer for Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. If units still are available, they could be rented to people outside the school system.

For its pilot project in the Brickell area, Miami-Dade’s school system wants to expand the existing Southside Elementary School by creating a building nearby for students between sixth and eighth grades. 

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