This is one of four structural insulated panel homes (SIPs) going up on Big Pine Key by the Florida Keys Community Land Trust as part of the solution to the affordable housing shortage. CONTRIBUTED

There’s potentially a boatload of affordable housing units coming from the state to Monroe County, discussed at an impromptu meeting of the Board of County Commissioners Thursday.

But not everyone is on board, and it was said several times that the devil’s in the details, which have not been released yet. 

The BOCC meeting was set up after 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. 

Those in favor cite them as a possible solution to the Keyswide, dire straits housing situation. Those who oppose the move say it will be impossible to evacuate so many residents in a reasonable amount of time should another hurricane head for the Keys. 

The need for timely evacuation of residents from Monroe County is part of the reason the development is restricted in the first place.

“We all know if we build on every lot in this county, I doubt there is a person in this room who would want to live here. We are facing some rather large issues,” said county Mayor David Rice. “Is this helping after the hurricane or setting a precedent for providing an unlimited number of permits by the state instead of coming up with their share of this huge cost we will have as a result of the ROGO?” 

He was talking about what will happen when there is no more development allowed in the Keys in 2023, and who will pick up the tab for the lawsuits as a result of ROGO, the rate of growth ordinance. 

It was put in place in 1992 as a projection of how many people will live in the Keys by 2023 and how safely all can be evacuated in the event of a hurricane. 

The commission agreed it will be a long time, possibly years, before the 1,300 units are available to municipalities, seeing as how each will have to amend its comprehensive plan to allow for the units. 

The next hurricane model will happen in the 2020 census, which will determine whether there has been a change in residency or road improvements to allow for more building units. 

The county has 450 unallocated affordable housing units and 1,000 market-rate units it can distribute. The challenge lies within the fact that some developers request the units and never use them, at which point they’re returned to the county.

County staff will travel to Tallahassee for a Tuesday, May 15, meeting to discuss the initiative with DEO staff and ask questions based on comments from the commissioners and public speakers.

BOCC will discuss the issue again with county staff input from that meeting with DEO staff, at its next commission meeting Wednesday, May 16, in Key West.

DEO also will submit its 2017 Florida Keys Area of Critical Concern Annual Report to the Cabinet at its June 13 meeting.

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