BenCarsonYesterday, Miami-Dade County hosted Dr. Ben Carson, the Secretary of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, at the Liberty Square public-housing development, one of the oldest in the nation.  The meeting formally commenced an exciting public-private partnership for the complete redevelopment of Liberty Square.  The project will be transformative for the community and a model for new public-housing projects throughout the country, and we have been fortunate to have been a part of the project as counsel for the County’s private partner, Related Urban Development Group.

The unique public-private framework leverages limited public funds with private investment (at approximately a 5:1 ratio of private to public dollars), combines public housing with mixed-income and market-rate housing, and incorporates numerous community benefits into the development, including healthcare facilities, commercial and retail businesses, a national grocer, internet access, and educational and recreational facilities for all residents.   The private partner has also developed a phasing plan that ensures that no existing resident of Liberty Square will have to be displaced during construction. The private partner has committed to innovative ways of supporting increased employment opportunities for the residents and contracting opportunities for small and minority companies as a part of the construction and ongoing management of the new development.

After detailed presentations by Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, Commission Vice Chair Audrey Edmonson, and the developer about the redevelopment project, Secretary Carson spoke in detail about the need for P3s of this type to provide not only housing, but also access to resources and meaningful opportunities to become successful, as millions of Americans are unfortunately lacking in both.  Secretary Carson explained that sufficient federal dollars do not exist to meet our future housing needs, and that only by leveraging the limited federal funding with investment and expertise from the private sector and state and local governments can we bridge the nationwide gap between housing need and availability.  Finally, Secretary Carson provided Mayor Gimenez with HUD’s Disposition Approval, which permits the development to move forward toward financing, permitting, and construction.  Both Secretary Carson and Mayor Gimenez made clear that this project is a high priority for each of them, and we should expect it to progress quickly.