ARC+ - Can you tell us a little about your background and how you became involved in the housing initiatives for Miami Beach?

MR- I have been with the City for 23 years. Before taking over the Housing Division, my time was devoted to youth and elder services and lending out my organizational development skills to improve operations in other departments. I took over the Housing Division in 2013 because of mismanagement by the prior management team. Clearly, as in all of South Florida, housing – or rather the lack of affordable housing across the income spectrum – is a major community concern. My job is to leverage what I have to make something better for those looking to live here.
ARC+ - What are the housing strategies currently being used and what policies could be put in place by the city to help address the scarcity of affordable housing?

MR - The City has amended it development rules to reduce the overall unit sizes and parking requirements for developers creating workforce and affordable housing. The City also prioritizes plan reviews for such projects. The City is always exploring new approaches including the inclusion of workforce housing in certain parking garages being built.

ARC+ - Can you talk about your efforts as it relates to the State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP)

MR - The City’s Local Housing Assistance Plan (LHAP) outlines the strategies that the City may employ in the use of SHIP funds. We have expended much of our energies on two specific strategies: first-time homebuyer assistance (to promote homeownership as a housing strategy) and homeowner-occupied rehabilitation assistance to help low- and moderate-income homeowners to stay in their homes and thereby preserve affordable housing stock.
ARC+ - Our students have visited and created a number of architectural visions for the artist housing at Collins Park, can you discuss the development concept and programming for subsidized artist housing?

MR - At this point, we have not delved into concept development beyond financial feasibility models. There are some key policy decisions that must be made to enable us to proceed.

ARC+ What role does sustainable design have to play in the affordability question?

MR - Sustainability should be viewed through the same lens as construction safety. What’s the point of building a home if it won’t serve its tenants long-term? We should be factoring the long-term viability of our housing given the fast-changing environment. Please note that any City newly constructed facilities must meet Gold LEED certification.

ARC+ - Are there cities that have best practices on managing housing needs for changing and growing populations?

MR - Every City is unique with its own geopolitical, environmental and economic factors that influence housing. What works in one part of the country may not work elsewhere. However, we should be aware of what is happening and what is promising so that we can incorporate innovation when it makes sense.
ARC+ - Affordable Housing has been called a “wicked problem” because of the multitude of stakeholders involved, what is the incentive for local governments, the public and private industry to and create more affordable housing on Miami Beach?

MR - The incentive is economic health enabling your workers to stay in the workplace by being able to afford to live near their work. Otherwise, they will leave this marketplace to find one that allows them to balance living and working.

ARC+ - Are there other factors I’m not taking into consideration that I should be on this issue?

MR - I think the will of the people is always that unexpected factor that can influence change. If we see people working to make homes for themselves and the best they can achieve in the marketplace is less than what is expected, people will rise and demand better.
ARC+ - What role do you see for community groups and non-profits like ours?

MR - There are several things that groups - like yours can do:
+Accountability Partners – Hold the powers that be accountable for doing what they can to make the situation better
+Innovation Partners – Share good ideas with us. While we are always looking for progress, we may not catch everything.
+Passionate Stakeholders – Care about what happens in the community and how and where people live. Serve as the voice of advocacy when things aren’t as they should be.