Affordable housing is a critical need in Miami-Dade County and South Florida overall; and the shortage has only worsened since the onset of COVID-19.
With land values skyrocketing and construction prices ever increasing, building affordable housing, whether for rent or homeownership, is, to say the least, a challenge. Every dollar counts. Tight margins, navigating regulations and bureaucracy adds complexity and costs, which can make the goal of affordability that much more elusive.
The Community Economic Development (CED) Team at Legal Services assists nonprofit organizations, small businesses, and nonprofit affordable housing developers with their transactional legal matters. This means quality legal assistance for their real estate transactions when otherwise they would not be able to afford it.
One nonprofit client, the Collective Empowerment Group of South Florida, Inc. (CEG) is a collective of South Florida Churches who mobilized to address the critical shortage of affordable homeownership in South Florida. To that end, Legal Services assisted CEG in several matters throughout the years.
Back in 2017, Miami-Dade County awarded them 26 vacant lots for affording housing redevelopment. Unfortunately, these properties typically come with long lists of pre-existing liens, code infractions, and other title defects that can make affording housing development and financing a nightmare as most lenders are unfamiliar with these types of developments.
Additionally, CEG tried for years to resolve several liens that were improperly placed in its name, which added another layer of challenges. With our help, a bit of persistence, and much time spent on navigating local government, we managed to get the improper liens released. The result was tens of thousands of dollars in savings! That also meant they could finally refinance the 26 lots.
As mentioned, refinancing these types of properties is complicated due to their history, and required true teamwork among CEG, an understanding new lender willing to learn, and us as the legal team that guided CEG throughout the closing process to ensure their interests were protected, and everything went smoothly.
Subsequently, CEG began construction on much needed affordable housing.
Our wonderful volunteer attorneys are also helping with this effort. One pro bono attorney is helping CEG create a homeowners’ association for a 16-unit affordable homeownership complex in Brownsville.
And, on another front, CEG is dipping its toes into uncharted waters. With our help, CEG is exploring whether local churches can benefit from providing housing in a community land trust model to better serve their communities. Our goal is to provide them with the legal framework that is required to create affordable housing that not only remains affordable in perpetuity but also provides sustainability to the nonprofit affordable housing developer.
According to Legal Services CED Director Chiara Brandstaetter, “More than just an attorney/client relationship, a true partnership exists between CEG and Legal Services as we are mutually committed to ensuring and expanding affordable housing for low-income families in South Florida.”