On Thursday, the Miami Herald dropped one of the most brazen advocacy pieces in the newspaper’s storied history: a 3,800-word blockbuster that basically says, “So long, low- and middle-income families, thanks for helping make Miami what it is, but we don’t need you anymore.”
The Herald’s reporting threw the proverbial kitchen sink at Florida’s recently passed Live Local Act that set aside hundreds of millions of dollars in state funding to help incentivize the construction of affordable housing in the Sunshine State. To provide relief on skyrocketing housing costs and rent, the law streamlines zoning ordinances to accelerate affordable housing construction, with the aim of helping low- and middle-income families avoid long commutes and live in the same communities where they work.
But the Herald’s story ignored the plight of those families and instead devoted the entire length of the monstrously long story exclusively on the voices of local government officials, neighborhood association presidents, a few unidentified sources, and others whose political and professional future depends not on the votes of lower-income families, but on the support of their well-to-do neighbors, employers, or board members. At one point, the Herald even pulled out “climate change” as a reason to oppose the Live Local law, but couldn’t be bothered to include voices in support of the law.
Just a few months ago, Live Local was widely praised by affordable housing advocates and the media, as well as elected officials on both sides of the political aisle. It passed unanimously in the Florida Senate, and 103-6 in the House of Representatives.
That there were only six “no” votes in the entire 160-member legislature is a testament to Live Local’s broad appeal. The “no” votes weren’t even from staunch opponents. In fact, they came from a mix of Republicans and Democrats for a range of personal reasons, none of which mention anything related to the “not-in-my-back-yard” logic that the Herald is now on about.
For example, one Republican argued that the bill was a government boondoggle that would ultimately drive up the cost of housing. Even one of Florida’s most radical Democrats, left-winger Anna Eskamani, actually praised most of the bill, explaining that her vote against it was only because it banned rent control.
Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law on March 29, 2023, amid great fanfare for how it would help provide more affordable housing options and help keep rising housing costs in check.
But that was May, and this is August, and we’ve reached the point where things might actually start happening. And boy, have things changed. It turns out that though the Miami Herald claims to be the “voice of the voiceless” and “speak truth to power,” they apparently only want to do that sort of stuff when it happens somewhere else, like, say Tallahassee. When it comes to advocating for more housing options for lower and middle-income families, the Miami Herald marches in lockstep with the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) crowd.
You can read the whole thing for yourself, but be warned, it’s basically nearly 4,000 words of dire predictions about how poor people are going to screw up the neighborhood, and how, suddenly, this bipartisan bill is really just another example of Republicans trying to line the pockets of wealthy developers. For your convenience, here’s a satirical take that captures the spirit of the Miami Herald’s story in memo format:
Subject: Farewell to Our Low-Income Friends – A Memo from the Miami Herald
Dear Low-Income South Florida Families,
It is with a heavy heart and freshly manicured hands that we, the ever-conscientious Miami Herald, pen this heartfelt farewell to you, our economically underprivileged friends. We hope this memo finds you well, or at least as well as can be expected when you’re grappling with skyrocketing housing costs, stagnant wages, and hours-long commutes just to get to work and home again. In fact, we acknowledge that many of you are struggling so badly that you are actually leaving in large enough numbers that our population is shrinking. Perhaps if Brightline ever becomes affordable, you can pack that train every day to come down here and earn a few bucks while you repair our cars and install new solar panels on our houses. We’ll keep our fingers crossed.
In the meantime, we want to assure you that we understand and care deeply about your plight; we truly do. Why, many of our own staff may even be among you, or at the very least, likely knows someone who knows someone who can barely afford to rent a place down here! But you see, dear friends, thanks to the internet, our less-than-wealthy reporters can now work remotely from their low-income neighborhoods, and besides, there are certain things we must prioritize over your low-income needs. We trust you’ll understand, but to be sure, we’ve outlined them below.
- Nostalgia and Architectural Integrity: The Live Local Act threatens our beloved city’s architectural elegance with its disregard for our height and density rules. After all, what’s more important: affordable housing for you or preserving the eclectic skyline of places like Doral or the “nostalgia” we get from the Hollywood boardwalk? Given the choice between struggling families and the skyline, we choose the skyline. And you would too, if you were us.
- Local Control and Power: We’ve always advocated for the voiceless, but surely you’ll agree that local officials must have absolute control, even if that control maintains the status quo of unaffordable housing. Those town council meetings are sacred spaces where gentrification must be defended at all costs. Even Doral Mayor Christi Fraga agrees with us that all those poor people suddenly able to live in affordable housing will have a major detrimental impact on the quality of life for us not-as-poor people. That’s why we, the Miami Herald, fully support Doral ramming through a 6-month ban on any Live Local development projects. We don’t want to completely ban you poors from moving in – that would look bad. Better if we just drag our feet so that you’ll be forced to move to someone else’s backyard first.
- Concern for the Rich Residents: While we’re sure you’re struggling on a daily basis, please, for just a moment, put yourselves in the shoes of South Florida’s wealthier residents. Imagine the horror of having a high-rise building with affordable apartments slapped smack-dab kinda-sorta close enough to a luxurious neighborhood where well-to-do and not-so-well-to-do might have to actually interact on the daily, outside of our basic customer service relationship. Ugh! Surely you don’t want to rub elbows with those uppity rich folk after work any more than those rich folk don’t want to interact with you. It’s another obvious win-win for everyone.
- Support for Developers (The Right Kind, Of Course): While we appreciate the Live Local Act’s attempt to help you by encouraging developers to build affordable housing, we must favor those who have the right vision for Miami – filled with market-rate condos, upscale boutiques, and exclusive eateries. Of course, we’ll still need you to work here, of course. And yes, we know you’ll be tired from the two-hour daily commute from your poor, high-crime neighborhood into our upscale communities, but don’t worry, because we’ll always advocate for higher minimum wage on your behalf. We’re not monsters.
- Climate Change Will Kill You (But Not Us): You see, the new residents of South Florida who can actually afford to live here all have the means to build defenses against sea level rise, but you poors don’t stand a chance. Just ask Hollywood City Commissioner Caryl Shuham, who rightly points out that when climate change finally arrives with a vengeance, all you poor folks will be washed out to sea while the well-to-do will be powerless to help from the balconies of their high-rise luxury condos: “The idea that you would be encouraging density on barrier islands, how could they not have considered that?” Shuham told us. In case you’re having trouble interpreting what she means by “density,” she means “poor folks” like you who can’t afford million-dollar 4-bedroom condos at Ocean Palms.
We hope you find solace in our words, and we genuinely wish you the best as you search for affordable housing elsewhere. Preferably somewhere far enough away that we don’t have to see you, but close enough that you arrive to work here well-rested so that you don’t screw up our Starbucks order.
Of course, we know you might miss your former hometown. Should you wish to revisit the glory days of Miami’s past, you may find solace in the Miami Herald’s archives, filled with thousands of newspaper articles detailing your struggle. Alas, all good things must come to an end, and it’s time for us to embrace our newly discovered “bougie” identity.
Farewell, poor, dear friends. We’ll think of you fondly as we sip our champagne and peruse our SWAG bags at the next black-tie Everglades Foundation gala.
Yours in Gentrification and High Society,
The Miami Herald