Miami-Dade County has started a series of water and sewer rate hikes to pay for $12.6 billion in proposed improvements to its water and wastewater systems, including a $3 billion project to drastically reduce the amount of treated sewage the county discharges into the Atlantic Ocean by 2025.

The county’s Water and Sewer Department raised rates 8% for the fiscal year that started last October. Annual increases of 6%, 5%, and 5% are planned for the next three fiscal years, department Deputy Director Douglas Yoder told Miami Today.

And there should be more increases in the future – wiping out Miami-Dade’s longtime reputation for low water and sewer rates to raise money to fix an underfunded system that has been rife with unlawful discharges from weak and leaky pipes and system overflows, described by critics as an environmental nightmare. “Rates will continue to be impacted as we get into the actual construction, which is where you spend money quicker,” Mr. Yoder said.

Miami-Dade’s water and sewer rates have been among the nation’s lowest for many years, according to the department. Even with the 8% increase that’s already in effect, a customer using 6,750 gallons a month pays a monthly average of $45.39 – up $3.36 from the previous average. That’s still the lowest among the nine major municipal systems in Florida, the department said.

Under federal and state pressure for years to improve its wastewater system, a centerpiece of the department’s capital improvements plan for the next 15 to 20 years is the $3 billion “ocean outfall” project. The outfall project, Mr. Yoder said, is in response to a state law approved in 2008 that will ban Florida municipalities from flushing treated sewage into the ocean and will require them to reuse 60% of their wastewater by 2025. The law was eased last year, allowing municipalities to discharge up to 5% of their annual treated sewage flow into the ocean, but only due to “peak flow events” such as storms. It also gave municipalities more ways to meet the 60% reuse threshold.

Most of the cost of Miami-Dade’s outfall project – about $2 billion – will involve building a fourth wastewater treatment plant inland, somewhere near the west end of the county. It will also involve improvements to the county’s existing plants closer to the coast, including adding another layer of filtration and other cleansing steps, Mr. Yoder said. He said he expects construction for the outfall improvements to start in three to five years. Currently, he said, the county typically discharges 180 million gallons a day of treated sewage into the ocean – and sometimes 250 million gallons a day or more during peak flows – through two outfall pipes.

One pipe goes out from the Central District Wastewater Treatment Plant on Virginia Key in Biscayne Bay near downtown Miami and empties about three miles offshore, and the other pipe goes out from the North District Wastewater Treatment Plant and empties about two miles offshore, Mr. Yoder said. The central district plant was built in the 1950s and its outfall pipe was extended to its current length in the 1970s. The north district plant at Northeast 156th Street was built in the late 1970s, he said.

Before being discharged into the ocean, he said, the sewage entering the plants goes through a “biological treatment system” that removes about 90% of solids. The sewage also is disinfected with chlorine. The outfall pipes discharge into water about 190 feet deep offshore, where the outflow is swept up in the swift northern Gulf Stream current. “It’s a high volume of water that’s continuously moving,” he said. “It’s like the equivalent of eight Lake Eries going by the coast every day.”

There’s also the South District Wastewater Treatment Plant south of Cutler Bay, but treated sewage from that plant is not discharged offshore. Instead, he added, it’s discharged about 3,000 feet underground into “the boulder zone” amid the Florida saltwater aquifer. That doesn’t have affect drinking water, according to Mr. Yoder, because any saltwater from the aquifer that’s used for public consumption requires a high enough level of treatment anyway that other contaminants also are removed.

Meanwhile, the outfall plan calls for greatly increasing the amount of treated sewage that is reclaimed for reuse. A lot of the reuse, he said, will come from an agreement to send treated sewage to Florida Power & Light Co.’s enlarged and renovated Turkey Point nuclear plant for cooling its reactors.


Source: Miami Today


Florida Power & Light Co. last Wednesday proposed a pilot program that would build community solar energy projects — some with panels spanning the size of half a football field — in select cities including Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

The projects would be financed by customers who choose to give FPL $9 per month, because the company would not seek state approval to be compensated for the cost of construction. Customers who contribute would still  pay the same for their electricity, since energy produced from the projects would be fed into the broader grid, not directed specifically to funders, FPL said.

The new “voluntary” program would differ from an earlier FPL solar rebate program, where the company gave rebates to select customers to install solar on their rooftops but all FPL customers paid for those installations through their electric bills, said FPL President Eric Silagy.

“No one has to pay for this if they don’t want to,” Silagy said.

But some in the solar business questioned the financing model that seems to have FPL coming out as the winner.

“Basically, what they’re saying is ‘A lot of people want solar. So you give us $9 a month and we’ll build it, and you get nothing out of it but a feel-good,’ ” said Wayne Wallace, president of the Florida Solar Energy Industries Association.

Wallace rejected FPL’s claims that rooftop solar is less cost-effective than larger community solar projects.

“Investor-owned utilities don’t want to see a lot of people putting solar on their roofs, because it cuts into their revenues,” said Wallace. For consumers, rooftop solar can be very cost effective by slashing the price of their electric bills, he said.

FPL is the largest solar energy producer in Florida, but it produces only about 110 megawatts of electricity from the sun yearly  — or about one-tenth of 1 percent of all its power, said Silagy.

The company faces huge hurdles to ramp up further, he said, because state regulators are required to approve utility projects with the lowest cost of generation. Solar now is more expensive than natural gas-fired plants or nuclear plants.

That’s why FPL came up with this pilot program, seeking creative ways to add solar capacity, he said. The pilot projects proposed would build up to 2.4 megawatts of solar generation over three years.

“If it’s successful and we have a lot of customers interested, we can go bigger,” Silagy said.

FPL aims to start the first community solar projects in early 2015 and is looking to build in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Sarasota.

“The City of Fort Lauderdale is excited about the possibility of partnering with FPL to bring renewable energy generation to our neighbors,” said City Manager Lee Feldman in a news release.

But other smaller-scale solar options also are open to consumers, with other financing terms.

“What they are doing is great for the environment. We all should move toward solar,” said Joe Spector, vice president of operations for Ygrene Florida, a company negotiating with Broward County to develop a Property Assessed Clean Energy or PACE program.

PACE lets property owners finance solar on their rooftops without paying any upfront cost and then, repay the financing over years with their property taxes.

“In the PACE program, the person who pays is the one that gets the direct financial benefit” by using their own solar to replace energy from the grid and slashing their electric bills, said Spector.

FPL said their new program will help measure the true interest of customers in solar energy. Many customers now say they want solar but may not be willing to pay extra for it, said Silagy.

Yet some see the pilot program as a “flawed referendum” on solar.

“If they don’t get people willing to donate $9 a month, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s no huge interest in solar,” said Michael Wallander, a principal in EcoCity Partners, which also is negotiating with Broward for PACE programs. “People want solar. But many want to generate their own.”

FPL said it would make no profit on the three-year pilot program. It plans to donate $200,000 each year from program funds to nonprofits in Florida. The nonprofits would be selected by customers who choose to contribute to the program.

Regulators at the Public Service Commission must give the go-ahead for the pilot program. Hearings are expected later this year, and if approved, FPL hopes to start in January.

FPL’s parent company, Juno Beach-based NextEra Energy is the largest producer of sun and wind energy in North America.


Source:  SunSentinel

Fed up with burdensome taxes, a New York businessman is set to relocate to Miami after buying a St. Regis Bal Harbour condo for $6.5 million.

Keller Williams Coral Gables real estate agent Michael Light announced the all-cash transaction in a written statement released Thursday. Light did not disclose the buyer’s identity. The buyer is expected to move his entire company from New York City to downtown Miami.

The three-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bathroom condo totals 3,884 square feet.

“Over the last five years, 90 percent of the real estate clients I have worked with are relocating to Miami,” Light said. “These individuals understand not only the value of properties in South Florida, but also the value of Florida’s tax laws.”


Source:  The Real Deal

There are several changes that are being considered during this legislative session which will directly impact HOAs if they become law.  Two of those changes are:

  1. Fines may only be levied if the association was authorized by its original governing documents to impose fines; and
  2. The removal of the provision which allows a lien to be filed if the fine is $1,000 or more.  Thus, an HOA will lose its ability to file a lien for fines.

Currently, 720.305(2) of the Florida Statutes gives HOAs the right to levy reasonable fines of up to $100 per violation against any member or any member’s tenant, guest, or invitee for the failure of the owner of the parcel or its occupant, licensee, or invitee to comply withy any provision of the declaration, the association bylaws, or reasonable rules of the association.

If the law is changed so that an association can only impose a fine if its original governing documents authorize it to do so, HOAs will lose a very inexpensive way to enforce its governing documents.  If an association can’t impose a fine, the association will most likely have to turn to the association’s attorney to try to get an owner to comply with the governing documents whether it is by asking the association’s attorney to send a violation letter or to file an injunction to enforce the covenants and restrictions.  Either way, this will increase the association’s costs.

The statute also provides that a fine of less than $1,000 may not become a lien against a parcel.  Many people interpret this to mean that if a fine is more than $1,000, a lien may be imposed.  SB 1348 is proposing to change the law so that an HOA will lose its ability to file a lien for fines regardless of the amount the amount of the fine.

If you oppose this change, contact your local legislatures and voice your opinion before it is too late.


Source: SunSentinel


Apartment occupancy outlooks are sunny in Florida markets this year, according to a newly released report.

Three metro areas in the Sunshine State have occupancies greater than 95 percent, according to Axiometrics.

Naples, Fla. has 97.5 percent occupancy and leads the country’s top 90 largest metro areas. North Port, Fla. and Miami, Fla. also made the top 10 with 96.4 percent and 95.8 percent, respectively.

The December report, which was released Tuesday by the Dallas-based research firm, notes the national occupancy rate has been above 94 percent since April 2012.

This year is expected to bring more growth to the top performing metro areas, but with less gusto than in 2013, according to the report.

Other notable metro areas with high occupancies include Lansing, Mich. at 97 percent and Santa Rosa, Calif. with 96.9 percent.

Top 10 Metros with Highest Occupancy Rates

1. Naples, Fla. 97.5 percent

2. Lansing, Mich. 97 percent

3. Santa Rosa, Calif. 96.9 percent

4. North Port, Fla. 96.4 percent

5. Providence, R.I. 96.3 percent

6. Nassau, N.Y. 96.3 percent

7. New York City 96.3 percent

8. Minneapolis, Minn. 96 percent

9. Nashville, Tenn. 95.8 percent

10. Miami, Fla. 95.8 percent


Source: Multifamily Executive

A scam in which cons call people asking to collect “debt” for the electric bill has moved Miami-Dade police and Florida Power & Light to issue a warning to the public.

Police say there’s been an increase in the scam calls. Similar cases were reported in 2012, said police spokesman Alvaro Zabaleta. “They’ll call you, they’ll identify themselves as FPL employees and try to collect outstanding debt,” Zabaleta said.

The fraudulent callers claim that the victim’s electrical service will be discontinued unless they purchase a prepaid card for amounts ranging from $150 to $500. The scammers then ask for the account and PINs from those cards.

But it’s not only homeowners falling prey to the swindlers. “Lately they’ve been targeting businesses,” Zabaleta said.

Police are reviewing evidence and talking to witnesses, Zabaleta said, but their main focus is to get the word out about the scam. “We want the community to know. Don’t provide any information,” Zabaleta said.

Utility scammers also are hitting Key West customers. Three Key West businesses have reported being targeted by a telephone scam and one, Blossom’s Grocery, is out $1,300.

Keys Energy Services, the Key West-based electric company, is warning customers of a so-called phone spoofing scam. Spokesman Julio Torrado said customers have received phone calls that show up on caller ID as coming from the power company’s main phone number.

“Customers then hear an automated voice alert … to an electrical emergency within their home and the need for a crew to be dispatched,” the utility said. The automated system attempts to capture personal information that can jeopardize the identity of the resident.

Torrado said the Blossom’s incident happened Feb. 15. Faced with what it believed to be a power cutoff threat, store management paid $1,300, although Torrado said he didn’t know with what or to whom.

Miami Subs and Blackfin, a Duval Street restaurant, were also targeted. Miami Subs employee Sean Wright reported the attempted con to Key West Police Officer Thad Calvert on Feb. 11.

Wright said a caller identifying himself as a Keys Energy employee asked for $3,000 to avoid a service interruption and wanted payment by way of six $500 gift cards. Still on the phone with the apparent scammer, Wright called Keys Energy and was alerted to the issue.

If customers are unsure of the authenticity of a call and need to verify its legitimacy, they should hang up and call Keys Energy at 295-1000.

Keys Energy provides service to around 29,000 customers south of the Seven Mile Bridge. It’s overseen by a five-member elected board created in 1965 by the state Legislature.

FPL also urges customers to call the police if they get a suspicious call. Customer can also call the number at the bottom of their FPL bill and report the call to either the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (800-435-7352) or the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (

“FPL will never call and ask for credit card info or take prepaid cards as payment. Also, FPL will never ask for any personal information from you unless you initiate the contact,” said FPL spokeswoman Heather Kirkendall.

Customers wary of whether a call or visit is legitimate, should call the utility for verification.

For further information and safety tips visit


Source: Miami Herald


As you determine ways to make your apartment complex more appealing to tenants, you should pay attention to the latest trends when it comes to outdoor spaces.

More specifically, take note of what the American Society of Landscape Architects found when they conducted their Residential Landscape Architecture Trends survey for 2013. Then consider using these findings to your advantage as you work to improve your property.

Opportunities to Cook and Entertain Outdoors Top the List
A whopping 96% of Americans surveyed said they wanted grills outside. This was closely followed by complete outdoor living spaces, including outdoor kitchens and areas to entertain guests. If your apartment complex does not yet have a built-in barbecue area, or grills at the very least, you might be missing out on tenants who value livable outdoor spaces.

Seating is equally important according to the survey results, so make sure you have tables, chairs, or even basic picnic tables set up around the apartment complex. Installing some fire pits or outdoor fireplaces may also be the key to satisfying your tenants, according to 97% of the survey respondents.

Sustainability Matters When It Comes to Apartment Landscaping
More people care about sustainable outdoor spaces than you might have thought, and that includes landscaping. In fact, about 94% of people surveyed said they liked low-maintenance landscapes. Of course, in an apartment complex, the amount of maintenance might not directly affect the tenants, but it may affect your landscaping bill. Choosing plants that are native to the area can reduce the amount of work required to keep them healthy, and this move would please 87% of the survey respondents, too.

Nearly as many people also like the idea of having gardens that grow fruits and vegetables. In fact, more apartment landscaping plans these days are featuring gardens as a major part of their sustainable outdoor spaces. You can offer one or even a few courtyard gardens, or even window boxes for tenants to grow their own food. Either way, this apartment landscaping can improve the quality of life in your complex. It often even increases the length of each tenant’s stay, since many people grow quite attached to their gardens after putting in hours of work to grow food.

Lighting and Installed Seating Are Also on the Minds of Many Tenants
About 95% of those surveyed claimed lighting was important to them in an outdoor space. After all, this makes it possible for tenants to cook dinner outside as the sun goes down or even simply feel safer taking walks at night. Considering how much people now value sustainable outdoor spaces, you should be sure to use energy-efficient or even solar lighting with timers and sensors to help keep light pollution to a minimum.

Another common desire for outdoor space is the presence of installed seating. This ranges from simple ledges and boulders to installed benches. You can install what you think would look best in your apartment complex, again paying attention to sustainability by using eco-friendly materials that can stand up to your city’s climate for years.

Outdoor Recreation Amenities Are Appreciated in Modern Apartments
You might be surprised to find that outdoor recreation amenities, such as pools and tennis courts, garnered only 76% of the vote in this survey. In fact, more people – about 82% – thought having weatherized chairs outside was more important. That means the ability to cook outside and sit comfortably, perhaps in front of a fire pit, is more important to many Americans than access to a pool.

Of course, many apartment complexes are still expected to have such fun amenities, especially in warmer areas. However, apparently you should focus on getting grills and seating set up first if your apartment landscaping is missing these features. After all, sustainable outdoor spaces are of great importance to many tenants.


Source: Green Property Management

The multifamily industry spends considerable time and money targeting Gen Y renters through property management, apartment development, and marketing.

And when 72% of people under 30 years old live in rental housing, its easy to understand why.

But do multifamily professionals really know what Generation Y wants when it comes to their apartment home? And do the 20-somethings employed within the industry think we actually understand them?

Here’s an idea: let’s ask them.

At the 2013 Crittenden Multifamily conference in Dallas last March, Property Management Insider contributor, and resident Millennial, Jay Parsons moderated a panel discussion with Generation Y multifamily professionals to debunk some myths about this particular generation of renters.

When the topic of discussion turned to apartment amenities, Parsons asked the panelist their verdicts on development trends and amenities that are typically targeted at them and whether they are truly essential or overrated.

Green Features are a Given with Gen Y

This one needs some clarification: green features as amenities are overrated, but that’s because Millennials expect your property to have them. Meaning, Green is not a feature, but part of the base package. So rather than trying to sell Millennials on green features, explain HOW your property is green and the cost savings.

But don’t oversell the cost savings because this could be someone’s first apartment and they won’t have a baseline for cost comparisons. Rather than trying to sell renters and what THEY can save, brag about how much YOU saved with green. Market your community and philosophy, not the unit. And for the record, each panelist said they would NOT pay more rent because an apartment is green.

Verdict: Overrated as an amenity, essential for an apartment community.

Dog Parks are the PreferenceImage of dogs playing in a dog park

Dogs, and pets in general, are the new children for Millennials. They’re not avoiding marriage and children but they may be delaying them so when they are getting their first apartment or moving to a new city, they need to bring their best friend along with them.

But don’t despair if your apartment community doesn’t have a dog park. Play up your proximity to any area dog parks or other animal friendly venues. This is especially important when dealing with urban environments. One of the panelists implored the audience to get creative: put one on the roof, use garage space, etc.

Verdict: Essential


Your Video Game Room Won’t Turn Any Heads—or Thumbs

The panel practically dismissed this “amenity” with a disinterested wave of the hand. Video game play is about gathering with friends in their space, not a common area. Panelist said the same goes for movie rooms. Besides, as one panelist pointed out, sometimes it is better to trash talk a 13-year old online in private while playing Gears of War and not in public

Verdict: Overrated

Tanning Beds Get a Cold Reception

Besides the extra effort to clean and maintain tanning beds, not mention adhering to health codes, the controls are typically located in the leasing center and can only be controlled by staff. That means tanning beds are only available during regular leasing office hours and not when it’s convenient for the resident. One panelist offered up an alternative to tanning beds: spray tanning.

Verdict: Overrated

Fitness Centers Shouldn’t Feel Confined

If you’re going to sell your fitness center to Generation Y, bring your A game. Don’t place a few elliptical machines and treadmills in a room the size of a small dining room and expect Millennials to be impressed. Also, you must have modern equipment. You need personal TV screens and the ability to plug in iPods and other media devices.

Panelists were keen on flexible spaces. Because many Millennials are willing to live in smaller units to save money, they don’t have room for activities such as Yoga or Tae Bow. By having flex spaces at your community, you allow residents more choice in the activities they can do. One panelist went so far as to suggest that property managers contract with a local gym provider and allow them to run a fitness center.

Verdict: Essential, but with conditions

Premium Parking Can Pay Off with Millennials

While Millennials may not be willing to pay extra for green amenities, they might pay for convenient parking. One panelist said she would be willing to pay $75 to $100 more per month just to be closer to the elevator. Two other panelists pointed out that while there is a trend towards walkability, even in urban areas, and using alternative means of transportation such as light rail, bus, and even ZipCar, parking is essential.

Verdict: Essential

It’s not that these amenities are unimportant. Keep in mind that this is only the opinion from a small group of Millennials who also happen to be professionals in the apartment industry. Take these opinions with a grain of salt, test them at your own properties, and adjust your marketing messages according to the results of your research.

What are you experiencing at your properties? From the Millennial perspective, what amenities are essential and what are over rated?


Source:  Property Management Insider

Pets do everything from soothing stress to providing comic relief at the workplace. In fact, pets are becoming such a part of our professional lives that many big companies now offer dog-friendly workplace policies and perks, like pet health insurance in their benefits packages.

Making a workplace safe for pets is important – after all, our furry friends aren’t eligible for workers’ compensation. Here’s how to make sure your facility won’t place pets in peril.

Before allowing tenants to bring best friends into the office, be sure to clear all areas of anything that could tempt dogs to chew, and keep things like fans, paper cutters, and printers up high and away from the ends of tables, where they could be knocked over onto unsuspecting pets. Dogs can suffer burns to the mouth, paws, and face from chewing on cables, so keep dangling cords out of paws’ reach.

Cake, candy, and other office treats should never be left out on countertops when pets are on the clock. No one wants to share a cubicle with a pet in intestinal distress – but more importantly, human foods like coffee and chocolate can actually poison pets. Provide plenty of tall trash cans with locking lids, and remind workers to discard their leftover lunches.

Doors that lead to parking lots, loading docks, and busy streets can be gateways to disaster for roaming dogs. Provide crates, gates, and leash tethers to keep four-legged friends secured in the doghouse. Remember that pets’ paws can easily be punctured by high heels if someone makes a misstep, and rolling chairs can crush toes or tails in close quarters. Really think about whether there’s enough space to accommodate pets before inviting them to work.

Finally, keep toys, treats, and anything pets might compete over out of common areas, and establish an outside-only rule for play. Just as coworkers can sometimes clash, dogs don’t always play well together. Little squabbles here and there are normal, but it’s best to adopt a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to a truly aggressive pet.

When welcoming pets into an office building, it is a good idea to have pet parents sign an official pet policy that clearly spells out all of the rules. Put safety first and set boundaries and you’ll reap the many benefits of a pet-friendly workplace.


Source:  Buildings

Younger renters have long been the prized demographic for apartment owners, but there’s some indication that an older demographic is going to be an increasingly important segment for landlords in the coming decade, according to a research note published recently by the National Multi Housing Council. That is, the aging baby boom demographic might make itself felt in the rental market as its members downsize from home ownership.

The baby boom generation remains the demographic bulge that it’s been since U.S. birth rates, which dropped precipitously during the Depression in the 1930s, spiked during the prosperity of the 1950s. After another trough in the 1970s, the number of U.S. births has roughly stabilized at around 4 million a year.

Thus, the number of births has varied much less in the past 25 years than it has in the prior 50 years, which means that—projecting forward—the number of young people entering the housing market, which usually means as renters, should vary little over the next 20 years. By contrast, the size of the baby boom generation (the youngest of which are about the turn 50) carries with it the potential for a large number of people transitioning to rental housing.

Sheer generational size, however, isn’t the only variable. Household formation is critical. The number of U.S. households increased by 11.2 million between 2003 and 2013; more than half (58 percent) of that increase came among householders from 55-64 years of age. Over the next 10 years, however, that age group will make up only 12 percent of the increase in households.

The bulk (72 percent) of the increase in households from 2013-2023 will instead occur among householders in the two oldest groups combined (65-74 and over 75 years of age), estimates the NMHC research note. The share of household growth among the youngest two age groups (15-24 and 25-34 years of age) will be slightly higher in the next 10 years than in the previous decade, but both shares will remain relatively small.

How many of these new, older households will be renters? Based on the 2013 Current Population Survey rentership rates, the 25-34 age group will make up 31 percent of the renter increase going forward, the largest of any single age group. However, the 65-74 and over 75 groups will make up a combined 52 percent of the growth in renter households. By contrast, the growth in renter households in the 55-64 age group will be slightly more than offset by the decline in renters in the 45-54 age group between 2013 and 2023.

In short, a relatively large number of a relatively large demographic group will become renters in the next 10 years. Younger renters will remain important, but it will probably be their elders who provide some oomph to the demand for apartments over the next decade.


Source:  MHN