The Miami Herald's Rose-Tinted Condo Outlook

Reading the Miami Herald headlines Thursday morning, you might have had a Marty McFly moment and thought you woke up in 2015. "Downtown Miami condos filling up fast, report says," one blared.

Huh? Isn't Miami the center of the nation's worst condo meltdown?

Well, yes. But this particular article made an extraordinary effort to address only the good news about our housing calamity. Specifically, the good news as told by a downtown Miami agency that receives public funding to promote economic growth in the area.

According to a report commissioned by the Miami Downtown Development Authority, 63 percent of  downtown condos built since 2003 are now occupied. A few years ago, this would have been terrible news, conjuring images of half-empty buildings and economic apocalypse. But in the New Depression, we're supposed to consider it good news, because it means a few more warm bodies to fill the streets. According to the Herald article, renters are flocking to the center of the city to take advantage of great deals in luxury buildings.

"The people who haven't been to downtown recently, you really have to come and see, because it's really a different place." Alyce Robertson, executive director of the authority, told the Herald.

Isn't that fabulous? Too bad the report itself doesn't paint such a rosy picture. The fine print explains that the occupancy figures include "part-time second home owner occupants," otherwise known as seasonal residents, whose lights are dark this time of year. Also, it notes that an eye-popping 11,800 new condos came on the market in 2008. Of those, only 36 percent have sold.

Finally, more than half the people "occupying" these condos are renters. That may be good news for bargain-hunting yuppies and downtown businesses, since people paying $1,500 a month in rent have plenty of cash to burn at the bar. But it's little comfort to buyers, who paid $400,000 to live in luxury buildings, where the trash now piles up because no one's paying the maintenance fees, and whose neighbors are 24-year-olds who crank Young Jeezy until 2 a.m.
"Condo lifestyle has just become a nightmare," says Jack McCabe, a Deerfield Beach housing consultant.

But nightmare is just another word for success, right, Miami?

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Lisa Rab
Contact: Lisa Rab