Miami is the heart of Latin America and the Caribbean and whatever happens to one of our southerly neighbors also happens to us. Today, we are part of the tragedy brought on Haiti by last Tuesday's earthquake.
Miami has a population of about 250,000 hard-working Haitian immigrants. Many have businesses that either serve their local community or provide goods to distributors in Haiti. Although many own homes, the majority are renters.
Other locals, as well, have jobs related to trade with Haiti, many as exporters, or operating the shipping companies that carry the goods.
The earthquake is already having an impact on Miami. To start, the purchasing power of the general population in Haiti has dropped to nothing and, as a result, those businesses here that depend on providing services and merchandise to that country have seen their incomes come to a halt.
The local marine industry is also feeling the effects. The Miami River Port, the traditional channel for the small vessels that carry most of the freight to Haiti, is busy now with the relief effort. While the new Santé terminal is active loading the Santé Manna with relief supplies, other shipping lines have suspended sailings temporarily. All related businesses, namely, transportation, shipbuilding and repair, security and storage are being affected.
Real estate, reflecting what happens around it, reacts to shifts in the economy by changing values. This catastrophe will touch everything that is part of the fabric of Haitian life in Miami. As a result, every property linked to trade with Haiti or to Miami Haitians could change status, from occupied to vacant, from desirable to underutilized, or from redundant to essential.
As it is, the relief effort is creating demand in some areas and types of facilities. However, apartment, office and industrial buildings, as well as retail properties, could lose tenants, effectively lowering their value. A lot will depend on how long it will take for normal trade to recover and on how many Haitians will return home to assist family members or to be part of the rebuilding.
If this terrible challenge becomes a long-term opportunity for Haiti's reconstruction, trade will grow again and there will be many opportunities for Haitians on both sides of the ocean. The need for housing and commercial and industrial properties in Miami will vary accordingly.
Note: Please help Haiti. Click here to find out how.