Use Publicly-Owned Land for Housing and Community Development

Policies that make publicly-owned, underused or vacant land available for affordable housing could create new development opportunities in areas with high land costs. Miami-Dade County, the City of Miami, and Miami-Dade County School Board are frequently the largest landowners in various neighborhoods across Miami. For example, Miami-Dade County is the single largest landowner in Little Haiti with 120 lots, followed by the City of Miami with 50 parcels, and then the School Board with 40 lots. Miami-Dade County alone owns over 300 vacant or underused properties in Liberty City.

A number of these government-owned properties are underused or vacant. These municipal properties, which range from underused surface parking lots to surplus School Board-owned land, could be leased or sold to a developer with a covenant to build new affordable housing.

Surplus Miami-Dade County Owned Properties

Non-County governmental jurisdictions and eligible non-profit organizations may lease or purchase property that Miami-Dade County no longer needs. Below is the total number of surplus vacant lots and buildings owned by the County.

  • 1 Infill Housing Lot
  • 2 Vacant Buildings 
  • 160 Vacant Lots
  • 2,498 Sq. Ft. Median Lot Size of Vacant Lots
Source: Miami-Dade County Internal Services Department, 2017.

Best Practices

As part of the New Housing Marketplace Plan (2004-2014), the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development acquired and redeveloped several underused public properties, including various municipal parking lots, into mixed-use affordable housing developments. The housing agency also worked with the Department of Education to convert two former public schools in Harlem into affordable homes for 185 families.

In 2015, the Los Angeles School District completed its first affordable housing development on district-owned land adjacent to a public high school. Built in partnership with a nonprofit affordable housing developer and the City of Los Angeles, the 90-unit Sage Park Apartment complex gives priority to district employees. The School District is currently developing three other workforce housing projects on excess district-owned land.

In 2017, the City of Miami Beach evaluated the viability of retrofitting existing city-owned parking garages to include workforce housing. Below is the general criteria used by the city to determine the feasibility of converting existing floors of the parking garage as well as adding additional floors on top of the structure for workforce housing. The preliminary study found that three public parking structures in Miami Beach could potentially be used to accommodate workforce housing.

City of Miami Beach, Letter to Commission, May 15, 2017
General Criteria for Workforce Housing in a Parking Structure
  • Foundation retrofit to accommodate housing
  • Structural analysis and spall repairs to existing structure required
  • Can accommodate dedicated elevator retrofit
  • Closure of garage during retrofit
Addition of Workforce Housing within Existing Parking Structure
  • Existing flat surfaces suitability to accommodate housing and retrofitting
  • Can accommodate common areas
  • Height clearance (interior levels) can accommodate housing
  • Fire rating and sprinkler systems required

Local Solutions

Create a cross-locality partnership focused on public land:

A cross-city partnership could be formed to help facilitate parcel aggregation and land swaps across Miami’s 34 municipalities. This partnership would lead to regular, cross-municipality and inter-agency assessments of publicly-owned property to identify potential mixed-income affordable housing development opportunities in accessible, high-value locations. To facilitate more cross-locality partnership focused on public land, the Land Access Neighborhood Development (LAND) mapping tool visualizes the distribution of local institutional and government-owned vacant, as well as underused properties. Developed by the University of Miami (UM)’s Office of Civic and Community Engagement (CCE), in collaboration with UM’s Center for Computational Science, and with support from Citi Community Development, LAND enables policymakers and community-based organizations to identify potential development opportunities for affordable housing in transit-served areas in order to promote equitable and inclusive community development.

Land Access for Neighborhood Development (LAND)

Source: Univeristy of Miami's Office of Civic and Community Engagement, 2018.

Develop School Board-owned land into affordable housing:

The Miami-Dade County School Board has considered redeveloping some of its underused properties into mixed-use developments as a way of generating long-term revenue to boost education spending. The School Board could also examine the opportunities for workforce housing on School Board-owned land, particularly in high-cost and transitioning neighborhoods.

Co-locate affordable developments with public facilities:

Local governments could consider co-locating affordable housing with other public facilities such as parking garages, fire stations, schools, and libraries. In 2009, Carrfour Supportive Housing partnered with the Miami-Dade Public Library System and Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust to co-locate a public library branch in a 76-unit affordable housing development, Villa Aurora, in Little Havana. Other local jurisdictions could also examine the feasibility of building new and redeveloping underused public facilities to include affordable housing.

Target Areas