On Feb. 3, 2016, the Miami-Dade County Grand Jury filed a report entitled “CRAs: The Good, the Bad and the Questionable.” This misguided report makes inaccurate claims and falsely asserts that the highest priority of Florida’s Community Redevelopment Agencies (CRAs) should be affordable housing. This narrow view of CRAs reduces and mistakes their value and mission as versatile revitalization engines.
CRAs are incredibly successful tools for breathing new life into city areas that have been neglected or forgotten. Their purpose is to eradicate slum and blight in its many forms in a community – through leadership and a publicly vetted redevelopment plan which includes investing in public-private partnerships and leveraging tax-increment financing. While a CRA nurses an area back to health through a strategic blend of redevelopment initiatives, it provides the building blocks and incentives for others in the private sector to be able to invest in and develop these communities, leading to a stimulated economy.
CRAs are created by local governments to respond to local needs and concerns. Overall, the comprehensive community redevelopment plans that are created and implemented by CRAs are uniquely designed to address that area’s specific needs for revitalization. Creating affordable housing is just one of the many roles that CRAs may play, and should be part of a balanced economic development strategy. There are a variety of community, state and federal programs with the primary mission of providing affordable housing and CRAs consistently partner with and invest in these programs. Chapter 163, Part III, of Florida Statutes, the statute which governs CRAs, is designed to be adaptable to Florida’s widely diverse communities.
The Grand Jury report asserts CRAs are not accountable for their spending and therefore public tax dollars are being abused by city officials. But by allowing elected officials to make decisions as CRA board members, CRAs provide representation to tax payers from someone most knowledgeable in what a community’s needs are and someone who is most accountable for the use or misuse of public resources. There is much transparency in how CRAs spend their money – there are four different reports or audits that CRAs are required to file which cover pertinent budgeting and project information and must be publicly posted on the CRA’s official website as mandated by Chapter 189 of Florida Statutes. In addition, it is erroneous for the Grand Jury report to claim that constitutional, statutory, county and local requirements for open government, competitive bidding, contracting and reporting are not followed. All entities involved with CRAs – including board members, employees, lobbyists, contractors, vendors, etc. – must comply with Chapters 112, 287, 163 and any other provisions adopted to Florida Statutes that govern open government policies.
No governing body is perfect, including CRAs. But the Grand Jury report’s suggestion that changes need to be made to state statutes governing all CRAs is not merited based on the review of a small number of agencies in Miami-Dade County. Any issues derived by the Grand Jury regarding specific CRAs should be addressed at the local level through the local governments which established the CRAs in question.
The Florida Redevelopment Association (FRA) looks forward to working with any interested parties to provide information on CRA legal practices, challenges and successes. We thank the Grand Jury for suggesting that the FRA is the respected source for redevelopment guidance statewide. We keep a database of CRA case studies all around the state, including Miami-Dade County, and we are continuously educating members (and anyone interested in community redevelopment) through our certification program, workshops, annual conferences and webinars offering best practices and expert advise. You may visit www.redevelopment.net for more information on how we serve our members and the exceptional work CRAs are doing in Florida.
FRA Executive Director