It’s often said issues in the Florida Keys can some way or another be drawn back to affordable housing – or a lack thereof. 

Part of the problem is also a lack of affordable housing units, permits which allow developers to build. 

In an effort to stymie the housing crisis, Gov. Rick Scott last week directed the Department of Economic Opportunity to allow 1,300 new building permits for workforce housing throughout the Florida Keys. 

Local governments that choose to participate in the initiative will work with DEO to amend their comprehensive plans to allow for additional building permits. Each municipality can apply for 300. 

“Pre-Hurricane Irma, we were hearing about workforce housing and post-Irma, we’re exacerbated. We’re on our knees,” said state Rep. Holly Raschein. “This is the state hearing our cry and putting forth something that is certainly creative and something they have jurisdiction over. I think that’s a great sign.”

The units will be used for either multi-family units or single-family units. The income level has yet to be determined. 

“Where we really have a hole is in the moderate/median income – the salary range for a school teacher, first responder, bank teller, etcetera,” said Marathon Mayor Michelle Coldiron. “That seems to be where we lost so many of our people after the hurricane.”

“This is the state hearing our cry and putting forth something that is certainly creative and something they have jurisdiction over. I think that’s a great sign.” – State Rep. Holly Raschein

Part of the development agreement will be that tenants evacuate within 48 hours of a mandatory evacuation, should the need arise. The need for timely evacuation of residents from Monroe County is part of the reason the development is restricted in the first place. The governor will present the move to the Florida Cabinet on May 15. 

How to enforce evacuation of people living in new units has yet to be determined. 

“Those are some of the clarifying details that need to be worked out, but developers will know this is deed-restricted and these folks have to leave within the first 48 hours,” Raschein said. 

The 48-hour window in advance of tropical storm winds is when non-residents, visitors, recreational vehicles, travel trailers, live-aboards and military personnel have to leave. Thirty hours in advance of tropical storm winds is when phased evacuation of permanent residents begins. 

“Housing is the top issue facing our community. It’s hard to hold a job down or keep a family going strong if you don’t have a roof over your head,” Raschein said. 

Any increase in affordable housing allocations from the state is definitely a good thing, said Marathon City Councilman Mark Senmartin. 

“Like most things, however, the devil is in the details. We need to address our concerns and have the best plan for our residents in case of a hurricane,” he said. 

SPECIAL MEETING
Monroe County Mayor David Rice has called for a special meeting of the Board of County Commissioners on Thursday, May 10 at 11 a.m. at the Marathon Government Center. The purpose of is to discuss the Gov. Rick Scott’s grant of 1,300 new building permits for the Florida Keys

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