‘I support capitalism’: Hialeah Mayor Steve Bovo announces federal rent relief plan

For transplants in New York and San Francisco, where salaries and living costs are higher, Miami apartments seem like a godsend.

But for local tenants – who are already considered the most rent dependent in the country – the estimated increase of 34% in year-over-year rents, some residents are scratching their heads as they struggle to calculate how to keep a roof over their heads while making ends meet.

Hialeah has become ground zero for South Florida’s housing affordability crisis: In the past month alone, tenants of an apartment complex in Hialeah protested a 65% rent hike $1,000 to $1,650 a month, even as promotional material for a new luxury apartment complex, Shoma Village, where rents will start at $1,700 a month for a studio, touted Hialeah as “the Brooklyn of Miami”.

To deal with what he called a “serious crisis” with rent increases in his city, Hialeah Mayor Esteban “Steve” Bovo, Jr. held a press conference at the hotel on Tuesday. city ​​of Hialeah to announce its plan to help residents avoid eviction.

Starting this month, the city will use federal coronavirus relief funds to help tenants whose rents have gone up during the pandemic. Bovo clarified that the money could only be used for rent and could only cover the difference between a tenant’s original rent and the new rate.

The announcement to use government money to pay rent has raised more than a few local eyebrows: Bovo is a staunch conservative who ran for mayor last year on a small government platform and has hooked an endorsement from ex-President Donald Trump.

But Bovo assured the crowd, “Yo entiendo capitalismo. Yo soporto capitalismo.” (“I understand capitalism. I support capitalism.”)

Local news blogger Elaine de Valle of Political Cortadito tweeted that Bovo’s message sounded “a bit ‘progressive’, maybe even, dare I say, ‘socialist’.”

Seventy-three percent of Hialeah’s population identifies as Cuban or Cuban-American – the highest concentration of any US city. The majority of Cuban immigrants arrived in South Florida in the decades following the Cuban socialist revolution and, as an electoral bloc, tend to vote conservative and even denounce the involvement of “communism” or ” socialism“. Of Hialeah’s 48 electoral districts, 46 received a majority of votes for Trump in 2020.

Bovo explained that applicants for rent assistance will need to meet certain criteria, including proof of U.S. citizenship, which can be a problem for Hialeah, which has a lot of immigrants. The money should also go directly to the landlord and not the tenant.

The rental assistance program is a temporary measure, and Bovo explained that it can only be used for an initial three-month period with an additional three-month extension if needed.

“It can be a slippery slope when governments start to wade into these situations,” Bovo said, “and it can skew things.”

Asked about long-term solutions for affordable housing in Hialeah, Bovo said Hialeah would not consider any form of rent control.

Hialeah Councilman Jesus Tundidor doubled down on the mayor’s sentiment.

“In no way is shape or form the city in favor of rent control,” Tundidor asserted. “We want to help temporarily, but the government can’t help permanently. We believe in a free market.”

So short of rent control, what is the solution to the crisis Hialeah tenants find themselves in? According to Bovo and Tundidor, it’s… more development.

“More construction and more development will be good for our community,” Bovo said. “We have to make tough decisions.”

Hialeah residents are advised to call 305-863-2970 to determine if they are eligible for housing assistance. Corn new times could not reach anyone after dialing the number three times on Tuesday afternoon and evening.