Will Mayor’s New Zoning Proposals Help South Florida’s Housing Shortage?

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava has a new proposed plan to loosen zoning rules in an attempt to prevent the suburbs from expanding closer to the Everglades and allow homes to fit onto small lots. 

The city aims to address the housing shortage problem South Florida faces, as well as the need to evaluate and increase the available housing stock and allow more flexibility to get affordable housing in place.

The plan would make splitting lots easier, allow developers to build houses closer together and waive regulations that require retail space on the ground floor of new residential complexes. 

avier F. Aviñó partner with Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod. Javier F. Aviñó, partner with Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod.

It’s a good start, according to Bilzin Sumberg attorney Javier Aviñó, who heads the firm’s development and government relations practice. 

“It’s a way of creating a path. Not a one-size-fits-all solution, but certainly a path toward helping with resolving that issue,” said Aviñó.

With planning still in the early stages, the proposal is yet to be fully developed.

“There’s a lot that will still come into play. I think over the coming months and, I think, longer than that perhaps as they continue to get additional information from a variety of stakeholders,” he said.

The plan is geared toward single-family stock, especially in the western areas of Miami-Dade.

“This only impacts the unincorporated parts of Miami-Dade County. Not those areas that are within specific city limits,” said Aviñó. “I think it needs to get studied and analyzed to see exact areas of impact. That’s going to be the biggest part of what the planning department is going to focus on next.”

The biggest challenge, Aviñó said, is increasing density while preserving established neighborhoods. It’s important to have good urban planning principles involved in what’s produced. 

It’s also crucial that urban planning and land-use attorneys start having conversations with elected officials as they develop their plans, in Aviñó’s view. 

“You can provide that feedback and provide them the background that will help them finalize those details,” said Aviñó.

The existing regulatory framework has some barriers like availability and cost of the land, but with a great need for additional housing stock, it’s important to bridge that gap to offset the increases in cost, according to Aviñó.

“Anytime you increase available density that helps to offset the increase in costs,” Aviñó said. “Anytime you create opportunities, it creates additional incentives for development and developers.”

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