Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Miami: The Hollow City

A recent European immigrant I know expressed how happy he was in discovering a 9th floor, three-bedroom, 1.5 bath condo in Miami for $500,000.00. After my head stopped shaking and my eyes stopped blinking uncontrollably, I had to wonder if I had been living here too long. No matter how many times you say 500 thousand dollars, it still sounds like half-a-million dollars to me. Maybe where he's from, that's a good deal, but from where I come from, that's a whole lot of money for way too little-- no matter how great this town is. Thanks to the recent Miami Herald article "The Price of Paradise," I'm reminded that property taxes on that much money will easily set you back $12,000.00 a year or "$230 a week." Add that to your mortgage and insurance costs plus your car payment and it's insurance, and, suddenly, Miami is becoming a city where only the wealthy can afford to live. Like the article suggests, Miami may become a "stratified community, where the rich live well, the poor get by, and the middle class get out."

Still, the downtown condos are selling. I suspect, however, that many of them have been bought on speculation with the hopes of making a quick profit on the investment. A small percentage may actually be retirement or second homes for the wealthy but most are beyond affordable for the middle class. Doctors, lawyers, and Indian Chiefs (casinos) might be able to live there, but where will everyone else live? In 2001, the average Miami home cost $158,000.00. Today, the median is $378,000.00. Yikes! No wonder it is nearly impossible to recruit new teachers. They can't find affordable housing in the county and, with the rising costs of gasoline, commuting from Broward is looking like a thing of the past.

With an estimated 40,000 downtown condo units planned, I suspect Miami is becoming "The Hollow City," nothing more than a pretty facade for movies with empty rooms overlooking one of the most beautiful places on earth.

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