barbara_jordan_web.jpgAn area in South Florida known mostly for what’s wrong with it is getting an injection of what many consider a good thing: affordable housing.

The “Triangle,” a small but notoriously high-crime area of Opa-locka, is where Habitat for Humanity of Miami will build 26 single family homes.

Mayor Joseph Kelley was joined by Miami-Dade County Commissioner Barbara J. Jordan and other city and Habitat officials on Oct. 6 to mark the start of the project as demolition of abandoned houses on Washington Avenue got underway in the nine-block area officially known as Magnolia North.

The project marks Habitat Miami’s first venture into the north Miami-Dade city. Established in 1989 with the building of four homes in West Perrine, the volunteer-driven organization, part of a national initiative, requires families to contribute to the construction of their homes through “sweat equity.” It spent several years in the southern part of the county after Hurricane Andrew ripped through South Miami-Dade in 1992.

Twenty-seven Habitat homes in South Dade withstood the power of the category 5 storm and since then Habitat has built an additional 200 homes for displaced hurricane victims.

Habitat has since redirected its focus to the inner city neighborhoods of Liberty City (133 homes,) Little Haiti (44) and Overtown (84).

Habitat homes have also been built in nine other Miami-Dade communities, including the Scott Carver area west of Liberty City. After Habitat accomplished in months what the HOPE VI program could not do in years, the county donated land for the organization to continue its work further north.

The federally funded HOPE VI initiative was projected to build single family homes for the more than 800 residents of the Scott Carver project relocated after the public housing complex was demolished. Instead, the initiative was found to have spent $22 million of federal funds, building only three houses.

The Opa-locka Habitat homes are a part of a larger beautification project spurred by two resolutions Jordan sponsored in 2006 providing $1.2 million and $1.9 million, respectively, for Opa-locka’s rehabilitation and beautification programs.

The Miami-Dade Community Action Agency’s Beautification Program is playing a role in sprucing up the city by providing owners of single-family homes with exterior painting and landscaping worth up to $5,900 if they meet certain income requirements. For more extensive repairs, the Opa-locka Community Development Corporation, headed by former mayor and state lawmaker Willie Logan, offers loans of up to $30,000 to rehabilitate qualified homes.

Joseph McDaniel, Habitat Miami’s communication director, said while new homes can have a positive impact on a cmmunity, they are only one of several factors in an overall transformation.

“The building of houses will not solve the area’s problems. It certainly will be a partnership with the community members themselves, as well as other agencies and organizations like the CDC,” McDaniel said.

“We know that home ownership builds stability, financial stability, especially if it‘s an affordable home,” he said. “Habitat homes have zero percent interest mortgages.”

Besides providing low-income families with affordable housing, McDaniel said, programs such as Habitat create a domino effect that benefits the community.

“It helps to give people who have moved from rented apartment to rented apartment a sense of place. That sense of place leads to an investment in the community,” he said.

Jordan shares that view.

“This revitalization will attract new homeowners and businesses to the area, as well as foster community pride.”

Renee Michelle Harris may be reached at