Miami-Dade mayor hires development executive for next county housing director

Pedro Portal/

An executive with a Miami developer of apartment buildings will take over Miami-Dade County’s housing department, Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced Friday, capping a brief search after she parted ways with the former director last month.

Alex Ballina, who oversaw public housing maintenance, operations and leasing for the county before leaving for the private sector 11 years ago, takes over for Michael Liu, a former federal housing official who came to Miami-Dade in 2014.

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In selecting Ballina as director of Public Housing and Community Development, Levine Cava picked an executive who worked for both the county and Miami Beach’s housing arms before pursuing projects in the private sector.

Clarence Brown, the department veteran serving as acting director, will assume the post of deputy director under Ballina, according to a memo Levine Cava released Friday morning.

Ballina is currently director of governmental affairs at Resia, an apartment developer and operator with a focus on workforce rents. That’s a market where a couple would earn up to $110,000 a year in Miami-Dade, according to federal guidelines.

Ballina said Resia doesn’t receive government dollars but typically needs zoning changes to build its apartments.

Resia projects include Resia Biscayne Drive near Homestead and Resia Oak Enclave in Miami Gardens. Rents start in the $1,800 and $1,900s, according to online listings.

“I believe housing is a right,” he said during a brief interview Friday. “And dignity is a must in public housing.”

Ballina is returning to a department he left in 2012. Public Housing and Community Development has a budget of nearly $900 million, and both manages federally funded public housing complexes and oversees the county’s efforts subsidizing developers of affordable housing.

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Levine Cava asked for Liu’s resignation last month, with insiders citing a break between the Democratic mayor and the housing chief appointed under her Republican predecessor, Carlos Gimenez.

At Resia, Ballina’s post as the company’s in-house lobbyist kept the 48-year-old involved in some county matters. He was one of the development executives who helped craft a signature Levine Cava program for the apartment industry.

Miami-Dade this year budgeted $10 million in subsidies for landlords who agree to keep rents at workforce levels. While approved in September, the program hasn’t launched yet. It’s not known if Resia will apply for any of the $2,000 yearly grants. Ballina said he would recuse himself from any issue involving Resia.

Born in South Miami, Ballina grew up in the Miami area.

After the shake-up brought on by the 2006 publication of the Miami Herald series “House of Lies” exposé of the county’s housing agency, Ballina joined as public housing director, putting him in charge of maintenance and upkeep for housing complexes.

On Friday, Ballina said he was eager to return to county government.

“I’m a local kid,” he said. “I breathe this community. I love this community.”