Parts of Hialeah are seeing recreational vehicles parked at houses, often times more than one, that are being rented out as residential units. The City of Hialeah is ready to start cracking down.
The municipality wants to create a more restrictive ordinance than the current one on the use of recreational vehicles (RVs) and boats.
The president of the council, Mónica Pérez, said that this is a recent problem, but it has to be solved. “When we knocked on doors in 2019 (during the campaign) no one talked to me about RVs as a problem, now they do. They send me photos, they tell me what they see, they ask me to report it, because they are afraid to do so,” she told el Nuevo Herald.
Pérez says the illegal use of recreational vehicles in Hialeah began after the pandemic, when “many people who have come to live in South Florida do not have documents and cannot afford rent, the cost of living has also increased.”
The shortage of affordable housing, particularly in Hialeah, which mainly has blue collar jobs, has created a need for informal alternatives.
Although there has been a boom in new developments in the city, the average resident of Hialeah cannot afford these high-end units, according to Councilman Jesús Tundidor.
Two RVs and a port-a-pottie
Hialeah has had an ordinance that regulates the use of recreational vehicles since 2007, but Alexis Riveron, director of the Department of Construction, warns that this rule allows them to be parked in the back yard of homes, limiting the ability of inspectors to verify if there are violations.
Mayor Esteban Bovo Jr. wants to end that.
“It’s not that we are talking about 15% of the households in Hialeah having an RV, because that is not the case,” Bovo told council members on Sept. 6, in a meeting where they discussed the issue.
According to the mayor, there is a report that indicates “that there were like 200, 240 houses or something like that that had RVs,” he said. “We’re not talking about a massive number of houses using it illegally, but if we continue to allow it, someone will think it’s OK to do it.”
Several elected officials, including the mayor, said that this issue is one that hits close to home.
The mayor said that he experienced firsthand the experience of feeling watched by the neighbor who had a recreational vehicle. “I had it [the RV] in the back of my house, a person parked his RV in front of my fence, I talked to him about it,” Bovo said.
Although it was only temporary, the mayor said that he “could imagine what it would be like if the neighbor had decided to park it there, I would literally have someone looking into my back yard all day.”
Councilor Vivian Casáls-Muñoz said that near her home there is a house with two RVs in the back and even a portable bathroom. “Oh my God, we have to apply the law to him,” she said.
Bovo estimates that no one who is using the RVs for a legitimate purpose would have problems with this ordinance. “Anyone who is renting them, whoever is doing illegal activities, will,” he said.
Not all politicians agree on this measure.
Councilman Bryan Calvo does not believe a new ordinance is necessary to regulate recreational vehicles.
“The current (ordinance) is not being applied, what I think is going to happen is that it will be applied selectively,” Calvo told el Nuevo Herald. “If RVs have been a big problem, if they represent a crisis, why hasn’t the current ordinance been applied these two years of your government?”
Limit on boats and RVs
On Aug. 22, this issue was discussed in public for the first time, where Casáls-Muñoz rejected a proposal to decrease the allowed dimensions of RVs and boats from 33 to 24 feet.
The councilors who attended the workshop meeting on Sept. 6 agreed to a compromise that prohibited parking recreational vehicles in the back of the house, but allowed 33-foot RVs or boats to be parked on the side, and only 24-foot vehicles in front of houses. Luis Rodríguez and Bryan Calvo were absent from the session.
If a resident has an RV with a different size or an RV that does not fit on the side or the front of the house, he or she will have to request an individual variance to comply with the ordinance, explained Alexander Magrisso, the assistant city attorney. The councilors proposed that the ordinance offer a period of 60 days and not 30, as originally designed, to comply with the code.
“We do not want to punish those who have a RVs and take it out four or five times a year to camp with their family,” Bovo pointed out. “We want to punish people who are buying houses in Hialeah without the intention of living in these houses, who are cutting them in half or renting them to four or five families.”
The proposal, in addition to prohibiting rear parking of recreational vehicles, includes limiting the amount allowed per home. In some parts of the city you can see more than two boats and even more than one RV on the same property.
If the ordinance is approved, it would be prohibited to have more than one boat and more than one RV on the same property. Residents can have one of each, but not two of each.
The rule would only allow parking in single-family homes, and would prohibit it in duplexes and townhouses, according to Magrisso. The proposal indicates “the parking of commercial vehicles, recreational vehicles, or boats or vessels shall will be prohibited on properties developed as duplexes, zero lot line, or multi-family.”
The reason for this limitation is so that you can enter and exit the property if an emergency occurs. “Three boats in front of a house is a danger for the owner, but also for the neighbor who cannot see if there is someone on the sidewalk when he backs away,” explained the president of the council.
Pérez warned that there are also people living in many of the boats parked in the homes. “Inspectors, firefighters and police have amazing stories of what is happening,” she said.
Following the changes that the councilors requested from the legal department, the ordinance will be debated on Sept. 26.