How Cubans Greet in Miami: How Much Do You Pay for Rent?

The typical ’efficiency’ in Miami is a small space rented as an apartment / NPR

By Alejandro Mena & Juan Izquierdo (14ymedio)

HAVANA TIMES -, Miami/Havana, 30 March 2024  — “How much do you pay for rent?” The question has become a greeting among the Cubans of Miami, and the answer is almost always a stratospheric figure. The real estate issue hits newcomers and long-timers alike, but the possible solutions – moving to smaller spaces or peripheral cities – bring new complications: in the historic capital of exile you can have family and your culture, but you also have to work.

Iván, a 38-year-old man from Havana, knows this full well and lists his litany of bills to 14ymedio. Discounting electricity and other basic services, health insurance and his car, living in Broward County – north of Miami-Dade and once economical – costs him more than $2,400.

An apartment, like Ivan’s, has a room, a small kitchen, a washing machine and some furniture. To pay for it, he has to divide his day between two jobs – as a taxi driver and kitchen assistant – and still doesn’t have enough to pay the bills. He wants to move, but it’s not easy. “What’s the most shocking,” he says, “is how much moving costs. Renting a new apartment will cost me $2,000 a month, but to that you have to add two more months in advance. If you don’t have at least 6,000 dollars, you can’t move.”

Ivan has been in Florida for two years and knows the rules, but for newcomers the situation is really disconcerting, he says, especially since many still have to pay off the debt they contracted with the family member who got them out of Cuba, which can exceed $10,000.

“I used to explain that I didn’t live in Miami but in Broward, which was cheaper a few years ago. But now it’s the same,” says Ivan. Panic grows when leases expire and owners can raise the rent or remove the tenant. For those who want to move, the expiration of the lease is an opportunity to look for a cheaper place.

One option is the so-called “efficiency”, a space attached to a house or a larger building – such as a garage – enabled as a room and “with some comforts,” defines Iván. Its price ranges between 800 and 1,500 dollars, depending on its condition and the area. In Miramar, in Broward County, “some parts are still cheap,” he says, except for the west of the city, where the price increases are alarming. It is also “quite cheap” within the same county, like the city of Hollywood, but “there are neighborhoods where no one wants to live.”

An example is Little Haiti, where, of course, Haitians predominate. Many have been there since the 1960s, when they fled the Duvalier dictatorship, and it has a reputation for “not being safe.” The city of Opa-locka, in Miami-Dade County, has the same reputation, and rents there are also cheap, “although not much more.” “Normally people don’t want to go there,” Ivan says.

“When I meet someone, before asking him how he is, I’m interested in how much he’s paying for rent, for a car, etc. It’s already a whole issue among Cubans here,” Ivan says. Checking your phone and finding a notification of late payment, or verifying that your account is empty and the bank that loaned you the money to buy a car is requesting the monthly payment, is a recurring nightmare.

For the newcomer from Cuba, learning how the economic gears of his new life work is complicated. Often – Ivan describes – Cubans interpret the starting point “from such a price” as the definitive figure, only to find out that they must pay an amount higher than expected. “Many go to the apartment and say ’wow!’, but when they learn the price, plus the fees for garbage, internet, water, electricity, sewer… it’s crazy,” he concludes.

Having a friend, contacts or family members who have been in Florida for a long time is the best help. “Those who have lived here for a while know when a place is up for rent,” says Sara, a 47-year-old from Holguin who lives in Hialeah. Confidence in tenants has decreased a lot, especially with the recent waves of Cubans escaping from the Island.

“Many are afraid to rent because of fights and other reasons,” she says. In her case, she pays “below average” because she has been in the same apartment for years and knows the owners of the property. However, “someone who has just arrived always comes with a bad reputation.”

Property owners in Florida will now have legal support to evict tenants who illegally occupy their houses. A law signed by Governor Ron DeSantis decrees the “immediate expulsion” and the “punishment of criminals who seek to circumvent the system.”   [[Property owners in Florida will now have legal support to evict tenants who illegally occupy their houses]]

The law will go into effect on June 1, and the Florida Prosecutor’s Office pointed out that it was a measure against Washington’s inaction in the face of the migration crisis, which “has allowed millions of illegal immigrants to cross the border.” According to the authorities, a group of undocumented migrants has an “atrocious and brazen plan” to seize houses, so the law empowers the owner to request “the assistance of a sheriff” and proceed to eviction.

They can also go to the police if the matter involves a former tenant or one who is in a legal dispute with the owner, which presents certain dangers when interpreting the law. The Florida Rising organization warns that the law “may lead abusive owners to expel legal tenants.”

Hialeah, one of the cities in Florida where Cubans settle most frequently, was identified in 2023 as one of the worst for renting in the United States, despite its popularity among Cubans. “The city projects a modern face and is open to investments, while its residents, mainly employed in manufacturing, construction and maintenance, see how rents rise to unattainable prices for the average salaries,” said El Nuevo Herald last January.

The newspaper cited the complaints of several Cubans, who felt powerless before the real estate boom in the area, while rents exceed $2,000 and continue to rise. The mayor of Hialeah himself, Esteban Bovo, told the newspaper that “a garage converted into an apartment” or “a mobile home” are scandalous solutions to the housing problem in his city and said that he trusted the “self-regulation of the market.”

Life, however, goes elsewhere: the last station of the real estate Way of the Cross are the vehicles illegally converted into “houses.” The local government is targeting those who park mobile homes or trailers – apartments on wheels – for an indefinite time in a parking lot. The authorities have promised a flood of fines and raids, but the measure – aimed at a mainly migrant population accustomed to a difficult life – does not seem destined to prosper.

Translated by Regina Anavy for Translating Cuba

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times.

8 thoughts on “How Cubans Greet in Miami: How Much Do You Pay for Rent?

  • Circles,

    I totally agree with you. Havana Times is dedicated to issues dealing with Latin America, primarily.

    In one of my posts to Stephen Webster I emphatically pointed that out to him. Bringing Canada into the conversation to ameliorate Cuba’s myriad of economic and social problems is quite frankly, nonsensical.

    Henceforth, I will concentrate my contributions to Cuba.


  • Stephen as I told Stephen Webster, lets shift comments to the subject of articles at hand. This is not a publication dedicated to life in Canada on a shoestring and I am sure there are other publications that focus on that. If you speak with Cubans or Nicaraguans living in Canada, that could be a subject to comment otherwise please stick to the articles you are commenting on.

    Best regards, Circles

    PS: I tried to send this to your email, which appears to not be a real one.

  • Chris and Stephen Webster:

    Extrapolating for the few (two) to argue for the betterment of the majority never works. The argument is self serving.

    Just because the two of you argue that living in reconstituted minivans and even under bridges in the harsh cold Canadian winters is as Chris emphatically states: “ . . . not the most ideal situation, but better than a warm air exhaust of an office building, or under a bridge.” most reasonable people would find your posits exceedingly ludicrous.

    Canadian municipalities are doing their best to remove transients living outdoors in public parks from freezing to death. And, the numbers are many. Many of these under housed suffer from addictions and mental disorders. These homeless people need proper humane housing – not under bridges.

    The thesis of the article is expensive accommodations. In Canada, accommodation expenses are extremely high; however, that does not mean living in the freezing Canadian outdoors is the solution that the two of you find so accommodating.

    Canadian municipalities are providing hospitable humane living conditions for those who cannot afford proper housing.

  • ……*Stephen are you even sane? *
    Stephen ( just Stephen).
    Let’s face reality, there are folks living in vans, motorhomes, trailers in N America, not the most ideal situation, but better than a warm air exhaust of an office building, or under a bridge.
    I spent one winter in a 30 ft trailer in Northern Ontario ( by choice) was not that bad.

  • I live in tent encampment with many other people we have propane and diesel heaters Stephen give a place to send the pics or look up Stephen webster homeless on the internet or what app

  • Thank you, Stephen for your Reply, to Mr. Webster, I could Not have said better. Life for Cubans can be Very Difficult once they get off the island & yes Cost of living is Crazy wherever we go & if we have Bad Life choices in the past will Not Help.

  • Stephen Webster writes: “This is how many people with children live in Canada and the United States or Mexico.” Readers, what has been stated is completely false particularly in Canada.

    Stephen, produce some documented evidence to substantiate your preposterous, unsubstantiated claims. Without some simple evidence you are simply spouting whatever is swirling in your head.

    In cold weather Canada, where in the winter the temperature falls well below zero degrees Celsius and in the north where temperatures hover around minus 10 to minus 30 degrees below freezing sleeping in a minivan is Stephen’s solution for accommodations. Can you believe that?

    Stephen are you even sane?

  • I tell people to buy a old minivan for about $1200U S or $1700 cd insurance is about $100 a month put 2 solar panels on the roof and a extra car battery. This is how many people with children live in Canada and the United States or Mexico. It is much easier than paying rent and that way can afford good food and still send money back to the family in another country
    I see encampment of often more than 200 in ont Canada that work on
    Construction or walmart.

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