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300 Affordable Units Coming Along FEC Rail Corridor

The South Florida Housing Link Collaborative, a coalition of five nonprofit groups, announced a $5M investment Wednesday from JPMorgan Chase, which will be used to develop affordable, resilient housing along the Florida East Coast Railway line in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.

300 Affordable Units Coming Along FEC Rail Corridor
Construction surrounding the MiamiCentral train station in Downtown Miami.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, Florida Lt. Gov. Jeannette Nunez and former U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, now a chairman with JPMorgan Chase, were scheduled to discuss the announcement at a press conference Wednesday.

The year-old private passenger train Brightline, soon to be rebranded as Virgin Trains USA, operates along these FEC tracks. It currently has train stations in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, and has plans for stations in Aventura and Boca Raton. 

According to the collaborative, the funds will be used to:

  • Acquire land along the transit corridor and build 150 new permanently affordable rental units using the Community Land Trust model.
  • Acquire 150 older rental units along the transit corridor, renovate them with energy-efficient and climate-resilient upgrades, and operate them using the Community Land Trust model.
  • Provide 200 energy and resiliency loans for existing homeowners.

With affordable housing a crisis around the world, it is no surprise to see growing interest in community land trusts, which acquire land and serve as the permanent stewards for residences built upon such parcels. The land is held forever in trust.

Qualifying homebuyers thus pay only for the cost of the actual buildings, making them more affordable. A 99-year renewable ground lease between the homebuyer and the CLT is established. When the home is sold, any profit is shared between the CLT and the seller. The CLT ensures a new buyer is income-qualified. Thus, affordable housing can be preserved in perpetuity. The model also works for rental properties, as the cost of housing is reduced and units are reserved as affordable in perpetuity.

JPMorgan Chase established an annual competition called Partnerships for Raising Opportunity in Neighborhoods, which aims to spark collaborations. The South Florida Housing Link Collaborative last year was awarded a planning grant from PRO Neighborhoods to develop an Equitable Housing Plan along the transit corridor.

The collaborative analyzed walkability, access to transit and proximity to opportunity zones and Community Reinvestment Areas. It identified the availability of underutilized or vacant land or multifamily properties that could be acquired and developed for housing with the CLT model.

South Florida’s proposal was one of seven selected out of 75 applications across 49 U.S. cities. Miami is the most rent-burdened city in the U.S., with six in 10 working adult residents spending more than 30% of their incomes on housing.

The groups that make up the  South Florida Housing Link Collaborative are Solar and Energy Loan Fund, South Florida Community Land Trust, Community Land Trust of Palm Beach County, Florida Community Loan Fund and Enterprise Community Partners.

The group intends to leverage the $5M in a variety of ways. SELF will launch a multifamily debt product for solar, energy and hurricane retrofits; SFCLT and CLTPBC will acquire properties using the permanently affordable CLT model; Enterprise will explore the development of local Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing financing tools; and FCLF will provide short-term acquisition and long-term permanent financing, the groups said in a statement.

Related Topics: community land trust