Emily Moloney felt good about her place in the Miami economy when the year
began: She was earning $85,000 in a tech job and covering rent on a one-bedroom
downtown apartment. Then came the notice of a $750 rent increase within 90
“I let them know this is basically an eviction,” Moloney, 31, said of the 40% hike
needed to stay in her home. “I found Miami pretty affordable, until now.”
Moloney was one of about 30 people who joined Miami’s latest rally to protest rent
spikes and demand government action on a housing market that’s considered a
crisis by affordability activists, elected leaders and others warning of rising prices
endangering the workforce.
A national ranking of rental costs from apartment-listing company Redfin found
the greater Miami area, which includes Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, had
the fifth highest rent increases last year in the country, up 31%.
Data from Apartment List found the Miami area not quite as inflated as other
metro areas, with a 27% rent increase landing the region at 11th on that ranking.
Nelida Jean-Baptiste Pellot said she gave up on Miami last summer after losing her
home to a fire. Making about $50,000 a year as a community organizer, the 36-
year-old said finding a new place to live meant grim choices. “The places I could
afford were scary: mold, rats, roaches,” she said. Now she’s living in Vero Beach.
The “Rent is Too Damn High” rally was organized by SMASH — an advocacy group
formally named Struggle for Miami’s Affordable and Sustainable Housing.
It was timed to coincide with Miami-Dade commissioners passing a new rule
requiring 60-day notice for rent increases over 5%. The board also is considering
legislation that could lead to a referendum on whether to freeze rents for a year —
a proposal expected to come before the commission by the summer.
The county’s mayor, Daniella Levine Cava, joined the event and said the current
path of soaring rents was not sustainable. “I’m with you 100%,” she told participants. “We’re grateful for you stepping up and being the voice of the community for this crisis that cannot continue.”
Daniella Pierre, 40, told the crowd that housing prices are driving out middle-class
professionals such as teachers. She said there’s no option if she ever loses her spot
in an affordable building. “I’ve looked all over the county,” said Pierre, president of the Miami-Dade NAACP. “I can’t go anywhere.”
Moloney walked to the rally, where the crowd outside Miami-Dade’s Stephen P.
Clark government center chanted “Housing is a human right.” “I had to be here,” she said. One message she wanted to share was the possibility of tenants pushing back. While her landlord wanted a $750 increase, Moloney said she was able to negotiate a smaller rise of $250. “I’m not going to live above my means,” she said. “You have to know if your landlord is relying on your rent to survive, or if they’re price gouging. I knew they were price gouging.”
Sofia Prado, 24, described herself as struggling on the lower end of Miami’s rental market, with a pipe leaking into the wall and a fridge that’s so cold it’s basically a freezer. She and a roommate share a 400-square-foot efficiency in Little Haiti, where a bunk bed allows for more space. Rent is $975 a month.
A dog walker with a carpentry side job who is studying psychology at Miami Dade College, Prado previously lived in South Dade for the cheaper rent. But the commute ended up being too long to the Miami area, where she has school and work.
Prado grew up in Miami, with parents from Nicaragua working in construction and housekeeping to pay bills. Now she is looking to leave Miami. “Life isn’t easy. I get it,” Prado said. “Honestly, if it wasn’t for school, I would have left already.”
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