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Miami’s Dubious Distinction: Least Affordable City for the Middle Class

Russian oligarchs and Brazilian expats may be its most prominent residents, but Miami does have a middle-class. But a new study shows they aren't exactly thriving. In fact, Miami is the toughest city in the nation to be a middle-class resident.
October 22, 2012, 8am PDT | Erica Gutiérrez
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Although a new study [PDF] from the Center for Housing Policy and the Center for Neighborhood Technology paints a prettier picture of housing affordability in some of America's most notoriously expensive cities, its results are likely to nauseate Miami's policy makers. So, what makes The Magic City so out of touch with its middle-income citizens?

It's a combination of housing and transportation costs, along with stagnant incomes, finds Jeffrey Lubell, executive director of the Center for Housing Policy. According to the center's recent report, Losing Ground, the combined nationwide costs of housing and transportation have risen by 44 percent since 2000. In Miami, that number is even higher, jumping by 47 percent, whereas salaries have only increased by 21 percent. What's more, "[m]iddle-class households in Dade spend a staggering 72 percent of their income on transportation and housing costs, the study found."

Miami has also seen an increase in demand for rentals, but an insufficient supply, resulting in raised rents. And for homeowners, the situation is no better, Lubell asserts, "households with blemished credit and existing homeowners with underwater mortgages have been unable to take advantage of lower home prices." Finally, in terms of transportation, Miami is highly car-dependent, so driving expenses such as gas, insurance and repairs, exacerbate cost of living issues.

Author Tim Elfrink finds some comic relief in this bleak situation, encouraging middle-class families to seek out fame in true Miami style. He concludes, "All you need to do is become famous via an Internet sex tape, star in an endless series of reality television shows, make billions of dollars and -- viola! -- Miami becomes a very easy place to live indeed."

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Published on Thursday, October 18, 2012 in New Times Miami Blog
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