Three Miami Beach Parking Garages Could Be Converted to Affordable Housing

flickr via Thomas Hawk
Home, sweet home?
Parking in Miami Beach can be such an impossible task that once you find a spot, you never want to leave. And under a novel idea being considered by city officials, parking garages could become literal homes.

To solve the Beach's mounting affordable housing crisis, city commissioners are looking at converting parking garages into workforce housing. Earlier this year, they passed a resolution that calls for housing to be considered for all new garages, including one planned at the site of a surface lot at 13th Street and Collins Avenue.

"We really, really need workforce housing in the city," Commissioner Joy Malakoff said during a February meeting, "and this gives us one opportunity."

Now city officials are looking at retrofitting existing garages. A study of ten of them shows three top options for the concept: the garages at 12th Street and Drexel Avenue, 13th Street and Collins Avenue, and the 17th Street Garage. Each was chosen because it can accommodate common areas and dedicated elevators, among other needs, according to the study, which was provided to commissioners last week.

The garages are often packed with cars, so the city wouldn't replace parking floors with apartments. Instead, it would add floors on top. That would require strengthening the existing structures, and the city says more research is needed to estimate costs. Malakoff pictures the garages featuring micro-units and, potentially, rooftop pools.

It's no secret that affordable housing is a huge problem for Miami Beach, where city stats show rent has spiked to between $1,500 and $2,300 for a one-bedroom unit, putting housing on the island out of reach for many of the service workers who make up its workforce. More than half of households spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing; 20 percent pay 30 to 49.9 percent; and a quarter spend 50 percent or more.

Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez says parking garages offer "a creative way" to tackle the problem by using land the city already has. "You know how expensive real estate is on Miami Beach," she says. "It'd be a lot more difficult for the city to acquire land. And we're not going to take public green space."

Far-fetched as the idea might seem, faced with plenty of cars circling the city in search of spots, commissioners also hope parking demand will decrease sometime in the future.

"As automatic cars come into Miami Beach and as Uber and Lyft become even more popular, the expectation is we will not need as many parking spaces as we do today," Malakoff says.