Miami: Ripe or Rotten?

Miami, city on the rise or rotting Mamey? That is the question.

It seems as if every day a new construction site is born and another acre of the everglades is torn down in the magic city.

Progress and modernity seem to be the promise of these new developments, but who are they truly for?

With sprawling skyscrapers come exorbitant rent prices, leaving new developments available only to the top 1 percent. Per the 2015 Census Bureau data, 1 in 4 people live in poverty in the Miami Dade County area, and the average Miamian makes an approximate salary of $35,000. That is 45 times less than the 1 percent of the population that makes around $2 million a year.

The demand for affordable housing, combined with low wages has placed a great burden on the city’s engine—its citizens. It has hit young adults, singles, and large families the hardest.  Most have resorted to moving outward towards Homestead and Ft. Lauradale, whilst others have simply left the entire region. The rising population density in suburbs further adds to the tumult of daily traffic , resulting in more unhappy citizens.

Also, what is up with these crazy requirements to rent a home? Not only do you have to pay the first month’s rent and security deposit, you must pretty much sell your soul to the devil to be considered as a potential renter.

Requirements dwell in the realm of: first month’s rent, last month’s rent, security deposit, the blood of a virgin, and giving up your unborn child as a sacrifice. Rent prices for studio apartments and efficiencies range between $800 to $1200 a month, meaning you at least have to have $3,000 saved to be eligible.  And don’t even get me started on how unfriendly this city is to pets! Renting with an animal is nearly impossible, especially if you have dogs, and if you happen to find a place that accepts them, then you have to add more fees to your down payment.

All things considered, the painful cost of living situation poses a huge question mark on Miami’s identity and its future.

Historical areas such as Little Havana may soon be known as “West Brickell,” a tactic that would push its defining community out, and invite an unfamiliar, wealthier one in, thereby erasing what made these areas fascinating to begin with. These changes have already affected areas of Miami, such as Little Haiti with the remodeling of Wynwood and Sweetwater.

To be sure, I’m not saying that development is a bad thing. I’m concerned with the question of who this city is truly ripening for? Could it be that this transformation is only suitable for those at the top?

As someone who moved to Miami fourteen years ago, I can tell you that the city may be ripe on the outside, but will continue to be green on the inside if it doesn’t include those who already live here. In the past five years alone, the city has transformed in more ways than I would’ve ever imagined. The skyline, the expansion of areas, the migration. Yet, the city now feels more synthetic than ever before.

Will Miami be the new Dubai? How will these new developments treat the city’s diverse personalities and all that it represents?

I walked alongside Museum Park (previously Bayfront Park) with a friend of mine the other day as he took photographs of the sun setting on the Port. He asked me what I thought the proper description of Miami was. What do locals say?

I told him I was still trying to figure it out, but one undeniable fact is that Miami is a place that everyone loves to complain about. In spite of that, many you never actually leave.

Could it be that those of us who have been born or raised here are in fact becoming rooted? I always wonder what Julia Tuttle would say if she rose from the dead and saw the city now. Would it be what she  imagined? And if Miami is, in fact, ripe on the outside and green on the inside, then what is the 99 percent, who is threatened by these changes, going to do about it?

Well, moving away from the city has always been an option—especially since the job market for anything other than large companies, hospitality and tourism, is pretty much dead (but this whole series is about how we can stay in Miami, and try not to keep being the worst, so we’ll discuss that another time).

There are some theories that with the rise of innumerable apartment buildings , the demand will eventually decrease and the supply will increase. Basic economics would indicate that rent prices will decrease as well.

In the end, Miami can have more skyscrapers than Manhattan; more fake islands than Dubai; and perhaps even more casinos than Las Vegas. Yet, there is no Miami without the aroma of cortaditos, the freshness of the conch man’s salad, the Haitian spice, the Dominican sweetness, the citrus of Peruvian ceviche, Venezuelans in Doral, or the pure warmth of more than 100 different communities living in the same place.

I think that the real solution—aside from Millennials creating enterprises in the area and a whole reconstruction of rooted beliefs—lies with ripening alongside the city. I can’t say for sure that changing alongside Miami will make it into a sweet, ripe, beautiful Mamey of a city—but I do know that without its people Miami would be nothing more than a vacant space with no one to complain about how “it was better in Cuba.”

Miamians need to embrace these changes and fight to stay. Fight to make the city better, more equitable, and more affordable; be conscious citizens. Otherwise, we’ll continue being the ones who allowed it to get worse.

The series “Miami: You’re the Worst!” is a compilation of articles from daily struggles in Miami. As per the 2016 USA Today Ranking of America’s worst cities, Miami came out as the number 1 worst city to live with in America. This series hopes to explore the areas that affected this ranking and find ways in which the citizens of Miami Dade County can resolve them. 


photo by: @rpmphoto26

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