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What Will Happen To Little Haiti Real Estate If Haitians Lose TPS?

If President Donald Trump's administration does what it has threatened and ends a program allowing people from troubled nations to temporarily live in the United States, Miami could see an exodus of some 50,000 people, many of those from its quickly gentrifying Little Haiti neighborhood.

Little Haiti Miami
Little Haiti has a vibrant stretch of retail on NE Second Avenue. Business could be affected if Haitians with temporary protected status are deported under the Trump administration.

In 1990, Congress created a program offering temporary protected status for foreign nationals living in the U.S. whose home countries are experiencing instability because of natural disasters, wars or disease outbreaks. More than 300,000 people from Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras are currently in the U.S. because of the program.

But the Trump administration has said that TPS was never intended to be permanent and that it plans for it to end. It ended the program for Nicaraguans Monday and said it would make a decision about Hondurans in six months. Haitians are still awaiting a decision and expecting it by Thanksgiving. Following the 2010 earthquake, the Obama administration offered TPS for Haitians and renewed it several times. This May, then-Department of Homeland Secretary, now White House Chief of Staff, John F. Kelly renewed TPS for Haitians, but only for six months.

Little Haiti has been experiencing gentrification the past few years. Yoga studios, art galleries and co-working spaces have opened in the neighborhood as creative types were priced out of Wynwood and migrated northward.

Developer Tony Cho and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Bob Zangrillo are planning Magic City, a $1B, mixed-use development on a 15-acre site between Northeast 60th and 64th streets. New York-based SPV Realty has filed plans to raze the Design Place rental complex on 54th Street and replace it with Eastridge, a development featuring nearly 3,000 apartments, plus hotel, retail and office space. 

Little Haiti still has a concentrated and vibrant Haitian population. Schiller Jerome, an investor, landlord and realtor working in Little Haiti, said if Haitians must leave, the impact will be felt most strongly in the Miami neighborhood as TPS immigrants do tend to live there, drawn by Creole-speaking stores and restaurants.

But, he said, they probably are working low-income service industry jobs, and given the difficulty of saving for a home or being approved for a mortgage, they probably are not homeowners.

“I hate to see this happen,” Jerome said. "But as far as its impact on real estate, in terms of landlords losing revenue or properties not being sold, I think its very minimal. What would bother me is if I were a commercial property owner in the area. My tenants may be losing their customer base.”

He said a mass deportation could affect businesses' ability to find service workers.

Jerome estimates that 85% of Little Haiti residents rent their homes, but many are co-renters or live with family, so any exodus of the TPS population would not affect rent prices much.

“It's a landlord's market,” he said. “There's very low inventory. When a landlord has a property for rent, its very easy to find a tenant.”

With respect to projects like Magic City, he said: “Their target audience is not Haitian-Americans,” he said. “I'm not going to lie to you, no one is creating housing capacity to serve TPS recipients.”

Another Little Haiti property owner, Gary Feinberg, said many Haitian households are multigenerational. 

"Haitians are very much about family and church, and make room for each other," he said. "I think gentrification will have more of an impact in terms of changing the neighborhood."

It is likely that if TPS ends, foreigners would be given six to 18 months to leave. The affected Nicarguans must leave by January 2019.

“It's not overnight,” Jerome said. “Now, if you tell me that every single Venezuelan or Colombian in Miami is going to move back home, I would worry about the real estate market.”