City and state officials and military staff just broke ground on a 52-acre site that will contain 139 housing units for military personnel across from the U.S. Southern Command in Doral, following years-long efforts to provide military members with affordable places to live.
The new housing will be constructed on land directly across from SouthCom, which sits along Northwest 33rd Street in Doral, away from the city’s main corridors and near a cow pasture. The project will be spearheaded by global real estate company Lendlease, whose work includes military housing developments, hotels and mixed-use developments such as the recently completed Central Park Tower in New York City.
Construction of the homes comes as South Florida residents are experiencing high housing costs and cost of living increases. In an email to the Herald, SouthCom spokesman Jose Ruiz wrote the military housing construction will involve no up-front costs to the Department of Defense. Instead, the project will undergo a process outlined in the Military Housing Privatization Initiative approved by Congress in 1996.
“It leverages private sector financing, extensive experience, and expertise in the planning, design, and construction of quality housing to timely and effectively address military housing needs,” Ruiz said.
“Because we are talking about a 50-year lease, it is a sort-of business transaction, where a company agrees to partner with the Department of Defense by financing the construction, assuming ownership of the homes, and operating and maintaining the homes for the life of the lease agreement,” Ruiz wrote. “This helps ensure not only the quality of the housing built, but also the quality of its upkeep over that 50-year period.”
Lendlease will finance the construction of housing and recoup the cost of building and managing the property through rent paid by military staff. Rental rates will be based on housing allowances, which vary based on rank and sometimes where a military member lives. An exact cost of the project was not provided. For instance, a military member with a family who is assigned to SouthCom in the pay grade of E-1, the most junior pay grade, receives a monthly allowance for housing of $3,456, Ruiz said. Whereas a military member in that pay grade who does not have a family receives a monthly allowance for housing of $2,595.
“At times, it seems as if the entire country wants to move to South Florida, which makes the housing market extremely competitive,” SouthCom commander Gen. Laura Richardson said at the groundbreaking ceremony. “This situation creates a significant financial strain on our military members where in some cases, they pay hundreds of dollars more than they get for the housing allowance. In many cases staff are living an hour away just to be able to afford housing.”
The site will consist of 60 units for unaccompanied military staff, 48 townhouses for junior staff, 24 duplexes for senior grade staff, and seven single-family homes for executives. Construction will begin in the fall on the townhouses.
“The project will provide housing for about 200 people, military members and their families. Southern Command has more than 1,200 employees,” Richardson said.
The Path To Housing
Southern Command moved from Panama to what is now Doral in 1997. It is one of 12 combatant commands of the U.S. Department of Defense and is responsible for providing contingency planning, operations and security operations in Latin America and the Caribbean. It is a joint command comprised of military and civilian personnel from all branches of the military and is responsible for more than 40 countries and territories.
Efforts to provide affordable housing for Southern Command began as early as 2015, when the Federal Aviation Administration offered the use of the land. In the years following, a series of studies were conducted to assess the cost and feasibility of the land. But it wasn’t until 2021, when the Small Installation Privatization Initiative (SIPI) was created that it became a reality. The program allows the Army to partner with private entities to develop private military housing.
The FAA transferred the land to the Army in August 2021, and last March, the Army selected Lendlease as the developer. The first homes are expected to be available in 2025, and the project is planned for completion in 2027.
Increasing Housing Options
The military housing will add to Doral’s sprawling development.
“Anytime there’s an undeveloped piece of land that’s adding now an element of new development, it brings new infrastructure to the city,” Doral Mayor Christi Fraga told the Herald.
She emphasized that the military housing community will only house a fraction of Southern Command’s personnel. Fraga noted that while Doral has pockets of small communities with 100 to 200 units containing workforce housing, she plans on asking for more workforce housing components on redevelopment projects.
“I think this is something we’re looking at holistically as a county: finding how we provide workforce housing affordability for our seniors and our workforce, those young men and women who are graduating and trying to start a family are looking for a way to move out of home and start their career paths,” Fraga said.
Source: Miami Herald