Climate gentrification continues to push residents out of Little Haiti

A recent study performed by the Leroy Collins institute at Florida State University examines climate-driven displacement as people living in Florida’s coastal areas move inland.

And South Florida has a presence in the findings.

“We have these two groups of populations, those who will be directly impacted by sea level rise, who might need to move away from the coast, and those who would be secondarily impacted by a process of gentrification-driven displacement,” said William Butler, an FSU professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning and a lead researcher on the study.

The three-part study included mapping displacement risk, assessing policies and plans of local governments in regard to sea level rise and the perspectives of public officials, planners, housing authorities and community activists.

The study concluded that Miami Gardens, Little Haiti, Hialeah, West Coconut Grove, Allapattah, Liberty Square and Overtown were the neighborhoods most at risk for gentrification and analyzed protections in place for affordable housing and sea level rise mitigation at each jurisdictional level: regional, county, city and neighborhood.

There are no neighborhood-level plans for Little Haiti, leaving it the most susceptible to the gentrification of all the neighborhoods studied. Little Haiti sits at about 10 feet above sea level, keeping it safe from the direct effects of rising sea levels but not from investors seeking out higher land to develop.

“There are communities that seem to have a pretty good array of kind of conventional, affordable housing and neighborhood stabilization type policies in place,” Butler said. “But they continue to lose ground to developments. And so we have questions about that. One of those questions is, ‘are the policies good, but the implementation is weak?’”

Magic City Innovation District is a 17-acre multipurpose commercial, office, hotel and residential development plan in Little Haiti.

The study notes that these types of developments make it difficult for community activists and advocacy groups to compete and present alternatives for affordable housing.

The Family Action Network Movement is a nonprofit organization in Little Haiti that advocates for climate and social justice. The organization wants to educate the community to understand the effects of climate gentrification.

FANM has developed a proposal for the Eastside Ridge project, a major development that would stretch out over 22 acres on the current site of Design Place apartment complexes. The plan suggests at least 40% of permanent workers would be Little Haiti residents. It would provide at least $5,000 to Design Place residents who wish to relocate. About 25% of the new project would be dedicated to local businesses. 

“We have helped mobilize a lot of the Haitian residents and community members to show up to City Hall and planning and zoning board meetings in order to advocate for affordable housing,” said Pia Palomino, a community organizer at FANM. “One of our main stances is that we are not against development, but we want the development to be inclusive and to based on the needs of the community.”

The Little Haiti Revitalization Trust was adopted by the city commission in 2014 with the promise of redevelopment that would promote economic development for residents and develop affordable housing and homebuyer assistance programs.

“For a while, they were very visible. It seemed to be a go and then just it just stopped,” said Paul Namphy, a lead organizer at FANM.

“We had a lot of hopes for this trust,” Palomino said. “Yet, we have not seen much come out of it, not a lot of action. So we’re trying to find other ways that we can implement affordable housing.”

This story was updated after publication to include information about the Eastside Ridge project.

Milena Malaver is a senior majoring in Digital Journalism. She currently works as an editor for Caplin News and as social media manager for FIU's Society of Professional Journalist Chapter. Milena has an interest in covering local news.