Real Estate

Miami Once Again Named Most "Rent-Burdened" City in U.S.

Paradise at a very steep price.
Paradise at a very steep price. Photo by joiseyshowaa / FlickrCC
Another year, another set of extremely bleak rental-price data in Miami. As New Times has noted over and over again since, well, the dawn of New Times, the Magic City has become a stupidly, ludicrously expensive place for nonbillionaires to live. According to a new dataset released yesterday by the federally funded mortgage lender Freddie Mac, Miami residents are still the most "rent-burdened" people in America.

Freddie Mac ranked cities' affordability by zooming out and taking a broad look at all the other rent and housing studies that respected organizations have put together. After crunching data from three sources — the National Low Income Housing Coalition, New York University, and Harvard University — researchers revealed Miami is the least affordable city in America, followed by San Diego, New York, Los Angeles, and Orlando.

Analysts define "rent-burdened" people as those who pay more than 30 percent of their yearly incomes on housing costs. It's long been known that Miamians are particularly squeezed — the area's median income is a paltry $52,300, meaning low- and middle-class renters are forced to compete for housing with international millionaires and billionaires sucking up Miami property.

Instead of whacking Miami specifically, Freddie Mac's researchers instead took a swing at Florida as a whole. Orlando, Tampa, and Jacksonville all fared poorly in the study — and the researchers warn this is likely because wages are low across the state. Miami just happens to have the most expensive housing in an already unaffordable state.

Unaffordability "boils down to the relatively modest median incomes in these cities, which average just over $50,000 per year overall, and $35,500 for renter households, both of which are over 10 percent less than the median income of the top 50 metro areas, according to Furman Center data," researchers wrote. "Despite significantly lower than average income, the average median rent in the four cities in Florida is only about 2 percent lower than the median rent in the top 50 metros."

Of course, this is something media analysts have been warning about for years. Florida's Republican-dominated Legislature simply refuses to make any major changes to fix the problem. For one, state law bars towns from setting their own minimum wages, and state lawmakers have kept Florida's minimum wage at a measly $8.46 per hour. Former Gov. Rick Scott even sued the City of Miami Beach after then-Mayor Philip Levine (foolishly) tried to skirt state law and raise the city minimum wage to $13.31 per hour.

State lawmakers have also blown more than $2 billion in public money that was supposed to be used to build or support affordable housing across the Sunshine State. As Miami Herald state capitol reporter Mary Ellen Klas has repeatedly detailed, legislators for the past decade have swept money away from the William E. Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund to use on other random projects, including tax breaks for some Florida residents. Now the state is suffering an affordability crisis, and it's Tallahassee's fault.

Even Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis seems to be at least marginally aware of this problem. For the first time in years, DeSantis proposed a budget that did not call for Sadowski funds to be swept away to other random projects. Affordable-housing advocates were elated. But not all the news out of Tally has been good: State lawmakers have proposed a bill that would make it much harder to sweep money away from the fund, but the bill has so far stalled in the Legislature.

Though Miami representatives' hands are somewhat tied, a few local politicians have tried to fix the issue lately. Last year, Miami Commissioner Ken Russell passed an ordinance that requires builders in a small subsection of downtown to build affordable units in any new condo or apartment towers they construct.
KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.