As a child, Annie Lord saw the effects of income disparity on a daily basis during her commute from Coconut Grove Elementary School.
“I remember driving through the West Grove to get home. I was aware at a really early age of the stark contrast between the house I lived in and the apartments that my classmates lived in,” said Lord, 38, the new executive director of Miami Homes for All, formerly the Miami Coalition for the Homeless.
“It breaks my heart. I drive through the West Grove every day and it looks unchanged,” she said. “I’ve always imagined that I could have had a different life. If I had been born in a different neighborhood or to different parents – that would be my struggle.”
Lord, the daughter of a Cuban exile, was born and raised in Miami. She attended Ransom and went on to Harvard, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Latin American studies and a master’s in public policy.
She served as the director of the South Florida Community Development Coalition before moving to Dallas five years ago, where she led programs that helped people in poverty.
Lord moved back to Miami in December, officially coming on board at Miami Homes for All a month later. She succeeded Barbara “Bobbie” Ibarra, who retired.
‘Let’s Not Wait’ for People to Be Priced Out of Living Here
Miami Homes for All works to promote legislation that creates and preserves affordable housing, to procure investments in a community land and housing trusts, and to help homeless youth.
Lord said she’s acutely aware that the affordable housing crisis “is affecting people up and down the income spectrum,” from the 8,000 kids in Miami public schools whose families don’t have homes to people who work but are barely able to afford rent.
“We have to have a place for people to live, like firefighters and teachers, or we won’t have them here,” Lord said. “Let’s not wait until we become like Los Angeles or San Francisco, where almost no one can afford to live within the city limits.”
Miami topped Forbes’ list of the worst cities for renters last year. About 20 percent of the Magic City’s 2.7 million residents are living in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
We Must Work to Ensure Inclusivity, Annie Lord Says
“No one can be financially safe if they can’t live in a home they can afford,” Lord said.
A lack of affordable housing causes a trickle-down effect, she said, that leaves people struggling to pay for health insurance, child care, education, food and so on.
“I think about single moms all of the time,” Lord said, herself the mother of two boys, ages 2 and 3. “The only reason I’m able to maintain balance is because I have a lot of help.
“The question is, how can we balance the desire to be a city where people want to stay and build businesses and homes and raise families, and be a place that takes care of its workforce? You’ve got to create the groundwork for investment and ensure that your community is inclusive.”