By Josh Boak And Jennifer Kay
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Facing a teetering economy at home, wealthy Brazilians have been pouring money into what they increasingly see as the safest place to invest: South Florida real estate.
So are Argentinians, Colombians, Mexicans, Venezuelans, French and Turks - almost anyone with money to shelter, a direct flight to Miami and a shaky economy to flee.
Their cash has helped drive the latest twist in Miami's ever-evolving transformation - from a 19th century rail stop to a tourist-and-retiree hub to a haven for Cuban refugees to now a harbour for global investors. No American skyline has undergone a more drastic face-lift from foreign cash in the past decade: Luxury condo towers and swanky retailers crowd a downtown once marred by empty lots.
And almost no developer expects the demand to stop.
Yet Miamians as a whole have scarcely benefited from the glitz. By catering to wealthy foreigners able to jet around the world, the area boasts a showcase of highly visible investments but not the broad income gains that would serve the bulk of its residents.
Wages have actually dropped for Miami workers in the past year. Area unemployment tops the national average. Miami contains the largest share of renters in the country who devote over 30 per cent of their pay to housing - the level the government deems burdensome. Census Bureau data show that high rents burden 66 per cent of Miami tenants, compared with 52 per cent nationwide.
Workers have few affordable housing options in neighbourhoods sandwiched between luxe coastal development and the marshy Everglades.