Miami housing costs hurt essential workers

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Tenants of an apartment building located at 1501 W 42nd St., protested.  in Hialeah to increase rent by up to $650 or 65% on January 19, 2022. Reports of rent increases across Miami-Dade are behind County Commissioner Kionne McGhee's proposal to study whether there is a housing emergency and if the county needs to impose rent controls on landlords.

Tenants of an apartment building located at 1501 W 42nd St., protested. in Hialeah to increase rent by up to $650 or 65% on January 19, 2022. Reports of rent increases across Miami-Dade are behind County Commissioner Kionne McGhee’s proposal to study whether there is a housing emergency and if the county needs to impose rent controls on landlords.

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For more than a decade, Miami has been my home. It was the place where my wife and I decided to raise our two children. We fell in love with the culture, great restaurants, people and green spaces of the city, which made spending time outside even better.

That was until the landlord decided to raise my family’s rent from $1,725 ​​to $2,400 per month, which made it impossible for us to stay.

As an ICU nurse at Jackson Memorial Hospital and a proud member of SEIU 1991, we were able to keep going. That was until everything around us started getting expensive. We’re starting to notice that as grocery prices have skyrocketed during the pandemic. We’ve seen gas prices slowly rise. We’ve heard of some landlords doubling or raising rents dramatically, but we never thought we’d turn it upside down. So we were.

We had to get out of the city center, and what used to be a five minute trip is now at least an hour each way. While my family likes more space, and better affordability, spending extra time away from them is hard.

My union has given me many things: a living wage to support my family, vacation pay, guaranteed raises, and a chance to care for my community during the pandemic. But so far, Florida leaders haven’t done a good job of looking after us. While inflation and the pandemic have affected everyone, our nurses and essential workers are among the hardest hit, and we are all suffering the consequences.

My wife is a nurse too – we earn middle class wages and live in a two-income family. If I’m having a hard time affording to stay, I can’t imagine how hard it would be for someone getting the minimum wage, while facing these 20%-30% rent increases. In San Francisco, a person earning minimum wage would have to work 207 hours to afford an average of one month’s rent for a one-bedroom apartment; In New York, you must work 253 hours. in Miami? 260 hours. month rent. That’s 65 hours a week, and that doesn’t include food, gas, taxes or bills.

Who can help?

The good news is that the governor and the legislature have the power to address this crisis through logical legislation that makes our state livable for everyone who works 40 hours a week. However, with a state budget of over $96 billion, the legislature has appropriated only $300 million for affordable housing—and that’s not even half a percent. Our state has the money, our legislators are the power; We just need to elect leaders who will use this power to make our country a fair place to live for everyone who works for a living, especially our essential workers.

We’ve already seen a record number of nurses and caregivers start moving away from Miami’s hospital system, moving to states with better wages and lower costs of living. Some are even leaving caregiving as a whole because staffing levels leave us exhausted in bouts of hardship. The cost of living here and the burdens that our work incurs every day make it difficult for many to survive. And it doesn’t just affect us – understaffing leads to lower standards of care, which is critical as I work in the ICU. Every day, my co-workers and I strive to provide the highest quality of care. We treat our patients as if they were our family, but we can only be satisfied with the numbers we have.

Unfortunately, this problem is not going away any time soon, and the solutions are difficult and expensive. Florida’s large elderly community and burgeoning urban population will continue to add to the demand for our healthcare system, and it doesn’t look like housing prices will drop anytime soon. Unions are a great place to start in ensuring that our employees earn a living wage. Our state leaders need to ensure affordable housing, so that Florida residents can raise families here for generations to come. We need to elect officials who understand our needs, support essential workers, and we will prioritize making housing affordable. We want to go back. It is our home. We just need it to be affordable to actually live here.

Joseph Flaahy is an ICU nurse at Jackson Memorial Hospital and a member of SEIU 1991.

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