In the weeks leading up to the Nov. 2 election for Marathon City Council, Keys Weekly will be asking each of the four candidates a question and printing their answers. Marathon Council elections are at-large, meaning that regardless of the number of candidates, the top vote getters are elected to the two open seats in November. Absentee ballots went out on Sept. 23, while early voting starts Monday, Oct. 18. For more information, call the Supervisor of Elections at 305-292-3416 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week’s query delves deep into Marathon’s affordable workforce housing challenges. The question: The city just awarded 307 deed-restricted affordable housing allocations that came from former Gov. Rick Scott. There are no more new affordable allocations left. How can the city protect, enhance and increase affordable workforce housing in Marathon?
Responses are as submitted by the candidates.
It would take a thousand words to answer this question; I’ll start with protecting affordable housing. The biggest threat to protecting housing for people who live and work here is the city’s Transferable Building Right (TBR) Ordinance. The rule is good, but it used to require anyone who transferred a TBR to pay a $60,000 transfer fee if they did not replace the transferred right with an affordable unit. The city reduced that fee to $20,000 after the crash in 2008. It was a good idea during the financial crisis but now it encourages buying a property that is currently affordable, tearing it down, and transferring the building right to a waterfront property to build a vacation rental. Raise the fee back to $60,000 to discourage those types of transfers. And what about cramming too many renters into small trailers and unpermitted downstairs enclosures. There is a lot more to discuss.
Affordable housing never is. My solution would be to award allocations to an experienced construction entrepreneur with two requirements:
1) Local workers face no income restrictions to qualify for this housing and local employers have first crack at these new housing units for their employee housing.
2) Rents would be restricted to $900 for a 1- bedroom, $1100 – 2 bed, and $1300 for a 3 bed.
Builders have confirmed that 1 bath, 1, 2 & 3 bedroom housing can be constructed “turn key” and code compliant for as little as $200 per square foot.
The City, County, School System, and Resorts etc. all want affordable housing and will donate land. Financing would be simple and below market as every bank in the Keys would want to participate in such a noble undertaking.
No cost building allocations + no cost land + favorable financing = true workforce housing! The financial numbers work! There is a reasonable cash-on-cash return for the investor. This can be done. It will take political fortitude and Leadership to make this a reality.
The city received 300 early evacuation work force allocations, in order to accommodate the entire list of requests we borrowed seven from our administrative relief allocations. The need for work force housing is imminent. All of the allocations that have been awarded must break ground within one year or their award will be revoked.
Moving forward we still have 37 affordable allocations plus approximately 30 administrative relief allocations. I would like to see the majority of the allocations remaining go to affordable home ownership for our community. This can be done by working with organizations like Habitat for Humanity.
Lynny Del Gaizo
Marathon is in the forefront of affordable housing in the Keys and I applaud that. Yes, there are 307 more deed-restricted allocated units, which the City would like to see built as soon as possible for our long term work force. I believe we need more enforcement to over see those units of the people who qualify. I’d like to see an addition of Habitat for Humanity Homes in our City for the long term locals, now that’s the enhancement for this community. People want affordable HOMES to call their own too! I can take one of my old homes and turn it into affordable housing and take the building right for a new home as can others, another creative approach. As I drive through Marathon, I see old empty businesses that would make nice affordable units and beautify US1. Affordable Housing is the #1 issue I hear daily. Without work force housing our businesses suffer.