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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Making a difference

That meeting last week at the Village Council was haunting me. But not just me. This is some great news. I got this letter from Commissioner Ken Russell overnight.

Hi Tom,

I saw your post about [the young lady's] visit to the Village Council last week (A Cry for Help).  You were dead on.  All of the intentions and talk from me and others have not changed the fact that she and up to 120 other residents of the West Grove may be evicted and homeless in the coming months.

On a long shot, I came to the final city budget hearing tonight with an amendment to allocate $306,000 toward emergency re-housing for urgent eviction situations like this. After some discussion and pushback and then support, the amendment passed.  The funds will be placed in the Department of Community Development which will create a program to work with these residents and bridge the gap to their next place in life.

The bigger solution involves accessible housing opportunities within our community.  I’m up for that challenge, but in the meantime, I’m very thankful to my fellow Commissioners for helping these neighbors.

Ken Russell
Vice Chair, Miami City Commission
District 2


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Blogger Nadine Johnson said...

Kudos to Ken for finding some assistance for the families in the West Grove. It is gratifying to see that Ken is turning out to be the person we all believed he would be when we voted for him. We have spent enough time and money supporting the wealthy developers in our community. I am proud to see Ken found a way to offer a hand up to these families who are the victims of disgusting greed and heartlessness.

September 21, 2016 4:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So glad to read this. I have been haunted since reading your earlier column. This is a positive start, and I am grateful to Mr. Russell for stepping up. Hopefully more good works to come.

September 21, 2016 4:08 PM  
Blogger Jim Pierce said...

I too am pleased to read that Ken is engaged to help those who require a helping hand.

I struggle whenever I read about the greed of developers (I do not have a horse in that race). I believe the developers are seizing on available business opportunities, and deserve to earn whatever they can; within the law. However, if laws or zoning ordinances are being broken, it is our elected officials that we need to hold accountable. The officials we have elected to represent us need to ensure any development is balanced against existing or future zoning, etc.

September 21, 2016 4:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The City of Miami has committed to giving $2 million to the Underline, so that we can have nicer bike paths. I think those $2 million (and the rest of the $100 million or more that they -the Underline- plan to spend on this project) could be definitely used in a better way, one of the ways being helping these people that are being evicted.

September 21, 2016 5:02 PM  
Anonymous Andy Parrish said...

There are no easy solutions to the problem of gentrification in Village West. Since 1994, when I built my first “affordable” house on Frow Avenue in collaboration with the Coconut Grove Local Development Corporation under the direction of David Alexander (now deceased and sorely missed), it’s always been ”The Land That Time Forgot” We’ve gone through at least two business cycles and the gentrification has first chewed up the Duplex lots north of Virrick Park and is now advancing into the Single Family zoned lots. All the multi-family zoned land on Grand Avenue has been purchased several times over, and is now too expensive for most local residents unless government provides heavy, heavy subsidies.

It’s a bit ironic that Village West and the rest of Coconut Grove finally have the same problem: the location is so desirable that outsiders will pay “over market” to get in and build, and local desires be damned. Nevertheless, we may still be able to come up with some solutions, particularly with the help of Commissioners Suarez and Russell. Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s) are already being allowed in places like Portland and Seattle to allow more housing for varying income levels and living situations (even though ADU’s require code enforcement to prevent Air B&B abuse).

In Village West, Jihad Rashid and the Coconut Grove Collaborative have long advocated the use of Land Trusts to secure lots for ownership “in trust” for local residents. The Collaborative has also proposed subsidized Business Incubators to provide jobs and training for locals so they can afford to continue to live in Village West. And just a few miles away, the City Commission has allowed a developer on a duplex lot to increase the number of affordable units by eliminating on-site parking where there is access to public transit.

Care must be taken to avoid “unintended consequences” but doing nothing but ranting about gentrification will just insure more gentrification.

Andy Parrish

September 21, 2016 5:53 PM  

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