Getting up to speed

Two Upper Keys Habitat housing projects in the works

A rendering of future Habitat for Humanity of the Upper Keys homes at Esslinger Corner, MM 89 bayside.

In its largest project to date, Habitat for Humanity of the Upper Keys is expecting to break ground on a 16-unit affordable housing project within the next three weeks.

The Windley Key complex at MM 84.7 oceanside is a pie-shaped property that will feature two-bedroom, two-bathroom units at 1,100 square feet each. Half will be rented and half will be owned.

“It’s been a long time since we built any affordable housing in Islamorada,” said Habitat Director Jack Niedbalski. “So we’re going to get up to speed with 20 more units and it’ll be great for Islamorada. These are nice homes, well-built homes that look good in any neighborhood.”

Within the 20 units he mentioned are an additional four units set to go up at MM 89 bayside. The Key Heights/Esslinger Corner project will consist of two single-family homes and one duplex, all of which will be owned, not rented.

Niedbalski said he’s hopeful for an October groundbreaking.

“Quite often, affordable housing has a negative connotation to its design and style and that’s not the case with these,” he said.

The standard income limits for the Windley Key complex will be around $52,000 annually for a single person.

“We estimate those monthly costs to live or rent there will be somewhere between $1,300 to $1,400 a month, whether you’re renting or owning,” he said. “We are budgeting $4.2 million in construction costs for both projects.”

Since 1989, 31 homes have been built in the Upper Keys by Habitat, the most recent of which was completed in 2017 and included seven single-family homes in Key Largo.

The Habitat for Humanity of the Upper Keys model is based on getting the county Land Authority and Village of Islamorada to donate deed-restricted land, then Habitat raises the funds and donations needed to build the projects.

Qualified families interested in buying a Habitat home end up with a 30-year, interest-free loan, Niedbalski said.

Also, 46 percent, or 14,500 of the 31,400 households in the Keys, are living at or below the necessary income threshold.

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