Discussions recently started over the potential to include accessory dwelling units within Islamorada’s workforce-affordable housing initiative.

Councilman Mark Gregg brought forth the subject during a December meeting of Islamorada Village Council. Following a roughly 30-minute discussion, the dais directed staff to explore more to see if it’s a tool the state would allow the village to use.

Gregg said he’s looking to generate conversation and political ambition to solve an affordable housing crisis within the village, which has 18 affordable housing allocations available until 2023. So far, a number of new affordable housing projects need about 50 housing allocations. 

According to a village memo, if the village uses remaining allocations for all remaining years through 2023, the village will be short in meeting the immediate demand. With an accessory dwelling unit, the idea is to permit the downstairs unit of an existing single-family home to serve as affordable housing units. Gregg said accessory dwelling units could only be done where downstairs enclosures aren’t in violation with FEMA.

“I’m hopeful we can start out slow and easy and pluck low-hanging fruit,” Gregg said. “My idea is to again keep it simple and start out by looking at existing downstairs enclosures we have already in place, either occupied or easily capable of being occupied.”

Councilman David Webb said the topic deserves serious consideration and asked for workshops where village officials and the public could discuss further. Webb said he would like talks to figure out how to best enforce what he called “our best intention.”

Webb briefly alluded to his Port Antigua community, comprising around 300 residences.  He said there are no village-issued vacation rental permits, yet he found a number of homes being used as vacation rentals.

“I can’t support anything until I see a clear path we’ll be able to achieve what we set out to achieve,” he said.

While a workshop would be part of the process council would go through, Gregg said he’d like village staff to put out feelers and get feedback from the state Department of Economic Opportunity to develop criteria. Gregg, who discovered accessory dwelling units several years ago, said it’s part of the all-of-above approach to solving the affordable housing problem in the village. 

“Before we get to the end of the line, we would like to know objections or things we should pursue,” he said. “I find it puzzling that they would impose on us statutory obligation to provide affordable housing and come back and slap us down and say, ‘no you can’t do this.’ I certainly think there’s legislative authority to do this, there’s statutory authority and there’s practical need.”

Further discussion is expected at a later meeting. Village council will next meet on Jan. 14 at 5:30 p.m. at the Founders Park Community Center. The public will be able to view the meeting via Zoom, with only essential staff and council members allowed in the council chambers. 

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