New Study Reveals Lack of Access to Affordable Housing for Sex Offenders in Miami-Dade

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
August 25, 2009 12:00 am

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MIAMI – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida’s Greater Miami Chapter and the Miami Coalition for the Homeless announce the release of Availability and Spatial Distribution of Affordable Housing in Miami-Dade County and Implications of Residency Restriction Zones for Registered Sex Offenders, a 69-page study that sheds light on the difficulty of finding affordable housing for sex offenders under current local residency restrictions.

The study shows that only 43 units were actually available at $1,250 or less a month in Miami-Dade County in July 2009. At more truly affordable rents of $1,000 or less there were only 15 units actually available, and at $750 or less a month, there were zero units. As many as 70 sex offenders have lived under the Julia Tuttle Causeway at any given time, and as recently as July there were as many as 177 sex offenders registered on FDLE’s Web site as “transient” or “under the Julia Tuttle Causeway.”

The study is the first of its kind that has been done in Miami-Dade County and identifies the sex offender residency restriction zones by jurisdiction to determine the impacts of restriction zones on the availability and spatial distribution of affordable housing within Miami-Dade County. Included in the study are detailed maps created as a result of the study.

“What we found with the results of this study is that the 2,500-foot sex offender residency restriction has a dramatic effect on the availability and geographic distribution of affordable housing in Miami-Dade County, with the few actually available units concentrated heavily in unincorporated areas,” said Carlene Sawyer, President of the ACLU of Florida Greater Miami Chapter. “It further solidifies what we have known all along — that the County’s restrictions are not workable, as evidenced by the mounting public safety crisis we can see under the Julia Tuttle Causeway.”

Because the number of actually available units was determined using publicly available rental listings, the number is likely an overestimate since many landlords refuse to rent to sex offenders. Furthermore, of those units available, most are located in rural unincorporated areas where access to public transportation and services needed to aid in rehabilitation may be non-existent. Indeed, 32 of the 35 municipalities in Miami-Dade County had no rental units actually available in July 2009.

“We find it unacceptable for people to be legislated into homelessness in Miami with very little opportunity to reintegrate into the community,” said Ben Burton, Executive Director, Miami Coalition for the Homeless. “We strongly believe that this study shows once and for all that given the current residency restrictions, there are virtually no affordable available housing units in our community for the growing population of sex offenders in Miami-Dade County.”

The release of the recently completed study, prepared for the ACLU of Florida Greater Miami Chapter by Paul A. Zandbergen of the University of New Mexico Geography Department and Timothy C. Hart of the Department of Criminal Justice at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, comes at a critical time in the ACLU of Florida’s lawsuit against Miami-Dade County to eliminate the 2,500-foot residency restriction. The ACLU’s lawsuit aims to revert to the State’s 1,000-foot restriction and comprehensive system for monitoring and tracking registered sex offenders, which the ACLU argues preempts the County’s over burdensome local ordinances.

“This study shows once and for all that the County’s ordinance has created a housing problem that won’t be solved by finding a few extra apartments. This is an ongoing problem that continues to grow as more sex offenders finish their prison sentences and are released every month. The only true solution is to revert to the State’s comprehensive system to monitor and track sex offenders, which would allow individuals to find affordable housing while keeping our community safe,” added Sawyer.

The study, Availability and Spatial Distribution of Affordable Housing in Miami‐Dade County and Implications of Residency Restriction, was made possible with a grant from Miami Coalition for the Homeless.

To download a PDF copy of the study and maps, click here:

To download a PDF of the Declaration outlining the key points of the study, click here:

For more information about ACLU of Florida’s lawsuit against Miami-Dade County, visit:

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