Residents of a 60-unit apartment complex in the city of North Miami Beach, Florida, were subject to an immediate evacuation order on Monday, April 4, after a team of structural engineers deemed the five-story building, built in 1972, to be structurally unsound during an inspection leading up to its 50-year recertification process. As detailed by the Associated Press, Miami-Dade County requires recertification inspections every 10 years following an initial 40-year recertification process.
The news comes just months after the Crestview Towers, a 10-story condo tower also in North Miami Beach, was deemed unsafe and evacuated in the immediate days following the partial collapse of Champlain Towers South in the nearby city of Surfside last June. Ninety-eight people were killed in that horrific structural failure, which occurred as the aging building was undergoing its 40-year check. Per the AP, North Miami Beach, a small city along the Intracoastal Waterway that’s home to roughly 43,000 residents, has been “especially proactive” in evacuating residents from buildings where inspections show structural problems. The residents of Crestview Towers have not been allowed to return since that building was cleared last summer.
According to a press release issued by the city, the owner of the latest North Miami Beach building to be evacuated, Bayview 60 Homes, had been carrying out major renovations and repairs within individual units in advance of the 50-year inspection process. “During this preparation process, the property owner and the City of North Miami Beach received a letter from the structural engineers advising of critical structural issues and immediate evacuation due to a deflection in the elevation of the building’s floor slabs was required,” the city explained.
“We are in direct communication with the property owner of Bayview 60 Homes to ensure that all residents are immediately notified and evacuated from the unsafe apartment building,” said city manager Arthur H. Sorey, III, in a statement. “The City is working with the owner to ensure that all residents will receive proper assistance as they relocate within the next 24 hours. The safety of the residents is our number one concern and we’re working as quickly as possible to mobilize our resources to the building site.”
A majority of the apartments at Bayview 60 Homes, which is located in North Miami Beach’s Eastern Shores neighborhood, were leased as rental units. All residents impacted by the evacuation will receive refunds for April’s rent and have their security deposits returned, according to the city. Residents, in limited numbers, will be allowed to return to the building throughout this week to retrieve personal belongings and furniture. They’ve also received initial three-night hotel vouchers and the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust and the American Red Cross will step into provide housing assistance if needed North Miami Beach Mayor Anthony DeFillipo relayed to the AP.
Compounding an already stressful situation is the fact that many of those living at Bayview 60 Homes are reportedly elderly residents who have been in the building for years and pay rents that are relatively affordable for an area with a dearth of affordable housing options.
“One thing to note is the rents in this building that just closed are between $1,500 and $1,900 a month. And If you know anything about South Florida that is very cheap rent right now and affordable,” Sorrey explained to the AP. “That’s going to be the issue right now with those individuals trying to find something along the same lines and the same price. It’s going to be very hard.”
This latest building evacuation also comes just weeks after Florida lawmakers failed to pass condo safety reform legislation that would have required minimum structural recertification inspections at aging condo buildings; currently, there is no state law on the books requiring such inspections. The proposed legislation, which failed when negotiations broke down between members of the Republican-led Florida Senate and House of Representatives, would have also established a mandate requiring required condo buildings to conduct reserve studies that determine how much money building owners needs to be set aside for repairs. Currently, a loophole in state law means that building owners can circumvent setting aside these funds.
Following last month’s legislative stalemate, Martin Langesfeld, whose sister and brother-in-law both perished in the Champlain Towers South collapse, told NBC News that it was “shocking and disappointing to see how little attention was given into changing legislation to avoid a horrific catastrophe from occurring once again.”
Update 4/7: A spokesperson for Bayview 60 Homes offered AN the following statement:
“Over the past few years, Bayview 60 Homes moved forward with planned safety upgrades, major renovations, and routine maintenance to the property. As part of this work, the company hired a structural engineering firm to assess the integrity of the building. Upon being notified the building may be structurally unsound, the company notified the city and asked residents to evacuate to ensure their safety.
This is a heartbreaking situation, but the safety of residents is the company’s highest priority. Bayview 60 Homes is returning all security deposits and returning April and any prepaid rent to all residents. Bayview 60 Homes has also offered to provide certain financial assistance to help cover lodging costs for the next few days. We will also do everything we can to help residents retrieve their belongings during this incredibly stressful time. We are very grateful to the city and for everyone’s cooperation in helping us protect the safety of our community.”