Housing summit left more questions than answers
Village Council chair Kate Callahan introduced speakers and Javier Gonzalez, vice-chair, had real estate answers to questions. Ed O'dell, former tv newsman and long-time Grovite, served as emcee.
The main issue was the displacement of Village West residents; 52 so far. What I loved at the meeting was that the Village West residents don't call their neighborhood Village West, they call it Coconut Grove, after all, that was Coconut Grove from the beginning. And maybe that's what we all need to be doing and I think I may just start that now, except I need to refer to Village West down below in this story, to differentiate it from South Grove to make a point.
A lot of the displaced people were sent to Homestead or Liberty City or other places, sent away from their Coconut Grove homes, churches, schools, family and friends. All this in the name of progress.
Perhaps if the slumlords were reigned in by the City, things would not be allowed to deteriorate. It's ironic to note that some of these boarded up buildings are housing squatters now, just like the Playhouse did for years. Oh by the way, there is a pipe spewing water all over the roof of the Playhouse right now. Does anyone know? Does anyone care? This is how our City feels about history.
|Ms. Frederika filling out the question form.|
Ideas were thrown around at the meeting, but no solutions were found. I and others found it odd that there were County workers from organizations like the South Florida CLT (Community Land Trust) discussing how buying a house would ease their problems. I thought at this point that it could be a waste of time, but I was informed that there are programs that ask for small down payments and low mortgage payments. One issue brought up was having neighbors buy up the buildings, rather than developers, sort of like a co-op. I think there should be agencies somewhere in the area, that would help people navigate this in an easy manner.
The bottom line is that government is not serving the interests of the people, but how can you force landlords not to sell and perhaps not have leases on their properties? I do think it's an easy fix to have them upkeep the properties, but the city neglects doing anything about that and they would prefer new buildings and tax bases rather than help people with what is there now.
Javier Gonzalez mentioned that there are 200 empty lots sitting in Village West as opposed to only one in South Grove. What does this mean? Are the lots abandoned? Are they awaiting buyers? Why is this the case? I know that some years back, apartment buildings were knocked down in the name of progress and the lots still sit empty all these years later. Is that progress or just the elimination of neighbors who lived there?
One business owner, Barbara Mills, discussed how it is effecting business in the area. Little by little as people are forced out, businesses will not have customers in the neighborhood. Next it effects churches and then schools and as residents vacate, the memberships and numbers go down.
There is a fund that will help displaced people find a home for a short period of time, the number to get information on that is 305-446-5150.
In the words of EWF Stirrup, an early Grove pioneer, "Every family here should have a home." And I don't think that refers to quick buck developers, but if they are the ones renovating, gentrifying and making old new again, what is the solution? What they are doing does bring property values up.
Many of the properties up and down Grand Avenue that are old and decaying are not historic, it's the people who are part of our history, some have been here for generations and they want to stay. And that's a major problem, is it too late to save the buildings? What about the people?
It's very admirable that the Village Council has opened the dialogue. People need answers. And help. Now.
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