Preserving Affordability Along Florida’s Brightline Rail Corridor

BY Jared Brey, — 11/07/2019

Next City released an article on Brightline, a privately owned rail service running daily trains along the east coast, opening its first three stations in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach. The goal was to create a new transit amenity in an often-congested part of the state, which means increased competition among developers for nearby land. Anticipating this, and hoping to get ahead of the potential gentrification of transit-adjacent neighborhoods, a new coalition of housing groups announced that it had received a grant to help build and preserve affordable housing in communities along the Brightline corridor. The $5 million grant, part of JPMorgan Chase’s Partnerships for Raising Opportunity in Neighborhoods was given to the South Florida Housing Link Collaborative, a group of CDFIs and community land trusts planning to invest in long-term-affordable rentals and help low-income homeowners afford rehab work to their homes.

The article can be found here.

Here is an excerpt that features SELF:

“The reason why we’re doing this is really to make sure that people living in these areas can stay there and share in the success as these areas are developed,” says Mandy Bartle, executive director of the South Florida Community Land Trust. “We’re going to be protecting some of the most vulnerable communities — to displacement and to climate change — by making sure we’re building affordable, resilient communities near transit.” 

The collaborative also includes the Community Land Trust of Palm Beach County, Enterprise Community Partners, Florida Community Loan Fund, and the Solar and Energy Loan Fund (SELF). Over the course of the next three years, the community land trusts plan to acquire 300 new properties in low- and moderate-income communities near Brightline stations. Community land trusts keep housing affordable in perpetuity under a shared equity model, which limits the amount of money that occupants can earn when leaving the property and requires properties to be occupied by residents under a certain income cap. 

In South Florida, some researchers have started to look into the impacts of climate change on gentrification, with some evidence that land on higher ground, like Little Haiti in Miami, is being snapped up by developers willing to pay a premium for this land amid concerns about sea-level rise. Many communities along the Brightline corridor sit at a higher altitude along the coastal ridge, says Duanne Andrade, the chief financial officer at SELF. The combination of their elevation and proximity to new transit (even privately operated transit) makes them extra-susceptible to gentrification, she says. 

SELF is a ten-year-old CDFI that makes small, unsecured loans to homeowners to retrofit their homes for solar power and hurricane resilience. The group targets low- and moderate-income homeowners who may have low credit scores but who do have an ability to repay the loans, Andrade says. The group has made $10 million worth of loans, at an average size of $8,500, according to Andrade. Seventy percent of its borrowers are low- or moderate-income homeowners, and loans have had a 98 percent repayment rate, Andrade says. The new grant will also support this resiliency work to help current homeowners stay in their homes.

Seventy percent of (SELF’s) borrowers are low- or moderate-income homeowners, and loans have had a 98 percent repayment rate.

Duanne Andrade, SELF CFO

The article can be found here.

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