Marathon church upping the affordable housing game with building buy


It’s been a quiet plan in the works for months and will eventually help at least 18 Middle Keys households in need.

Rev. Canon Debra Maconaughey of St. Columba Episcopal Church in Marathon was at the May 22 City Council meeting where the development plan for 18 affordable units in Marathon was approved by the city council. Project coordinators have applied to Monroe County for the building allocations, or rights.

Maconaughey recently signed on the dotted line for the church to buy an 18-unit building at 1655 Overseas Highway and will start renovations immediately after the sale closes July 16.

It will house those in need at a “doable” monthly rate, she said.

“We understand there is a need for housing for people that live here,” Maconaughey said.

“The County Commission has been saying they have all these additional affordable housing units no one requests,” said Mayor Michelle Coldiron after congratulating Maconaughey at the meeting. Coldiron recused herself from the City Council vote to approve the units because her daughter Mallory Morton is the Realtor who sold the property to the church. “I’m looking forward to going with you and standing shoulder to shoulder with you at the county,” she said to Maconaughey.

As for the property, it has a small retail space and 18 units, which haven’t been lived in for more than two years, said Remax All Keys Realtor Morton.

“The seller and I are both very happy to be working with St. Columba on this project, as their end goal to provide affordable housing to our workforce is what needed to happen with that property,” she said.

Monthly rent amounts will be calculated based on income, Maconaughey said.

“It’s a hybrid type of program, so it’s a rental but it’s also a co-op,” she said. “We know from people in our parish and community that people are really struggling, and we want to help.”

St. Columba has already been helping people with their housing situations since Irma. It wasn’t the storm that set the apartment building purchase in motion, but a combination of events from before and after.

In September, the church bought 22 RV trailers and put 10 of them on the church property. The other 12 were stationed from Islamorada to Key West.

More than 200 people have transitioned in and out of the trailers for a few months at a time while finding other arrangements.

Also Tuesday:
Council made the final approval of a housing project spearheaded by Anchor Inn owner Josh Mothner. He is going to build four affordable housing units on the hotel property at MM 51 oceanside.

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