First, let me say I hate CRA's. They can be abused and they often are, at taxpayer expense. They have morphed into money pits. I reported on the Homestead Community Redevelopment Agency audit on Thursday and again on Friday. I wanted to add to those reports. Second, let me say thank you Mayor Alvarez, County Manager George Burgess and Cathy Jackson for doing this audit. We need every single CRA audited in Miami Dade County. The more audits the better. And, we need the audit recommendations implemented. Or we could do it my way: Sack every CRA in the County.
The Homestead CRA was formed March 2, 1993 to received annually 95% of the incremental increase in County and City property taxes over the base year 1993. Monies are supposed to be used for financing development activities within the targeted area. Since 1995 this CRA has gotten $30,816,904.
During the audit period taxpayer money deposited into the Trust Fund totaled $15.3 million and the audit says "There has been little or no affordable housing development or jobs created in the CRA District over the past five years." So we threw $15 million dollars down the drain, lining the pockets of people like former County Manager Steve Shiver, whose name was plastered all over this audit. Instead of helping the area, his Company hurt the disadvantaged people living in the CRA district by displacing them:
Shiver's company bought a housing development with 44 dilapidated homes and evicted all the families in anticipation of redevelopment. To be fair, however, Gary Eager of Hollywood was the only officer in State records at the time of the 2004 purchase but in City records Shiver is listed as controlling owner see graphic at left Sub-paragraph 4.3. The property was never redeveloped but 44 families lost their homes (sounds like the Hope project in Commissioner Rolle's District doesn't it?). Then the CRA paid Shiver's Company rent to keep the houses vacant, at $400 a pop on all the units, it gave him $310,000 for which he provided no services to tenants, since there were no tenants. Then Shiver's Company sold the land to the CRA for what the audit says was an inflated price: $1.9 million. Steve's company made about $710,000 on this deal at our expense and the expense of up to 44 disadvantaged families.
We can all agree that the above example stinks. Can we agree on the Audit's remedy:
Based on the foregoing, the County, to the extent allowed by law should strongly urge the City to address the audit deficiencies, implement appropriate management and accounting controls to prevent abusive practices, as well as develop a more realistic redevelopment plan that benefits CRA residents. Moreover, the CRA should report annually on job creation and business expansion activities, as well as the progress of affordable housing development initiatives. The Office of Strategic Business Management should validate reported accomplishments assure accuracy and propriety.
Or we could do it my way:
Do away with all the CRA's. They invite fraud. And as you can see in the graphic, only 25% of units would have had to be affordable, a pittance when you count the 44 they had before they started.