an artist's rendering of a two story apartment building
The Lofts community — 98 rental apartments and 28 home ownership townhomes — is slated for Truman Waterfront, but is facing funding and affordability issues. CONTRIBUTED

Key West officials had a discussion on July 26 about The Lofts workforce housing development long planned for Truman Waterfront. 

The development is slated to include 98 rental apartments and 28 home ownership units.

But funding and affordability issues arose at a July 13 city commission meeting, when it was revealed that a moderate-income family would be expected to pay about $700,000 for a townhome at The Lofts. 

Without an additional $4 million — at least — the purchase price of the “affordable,” owned townhomes for moderate-income families would be $635,000 for a two-bedroom and $705,000 for a three-bedroom — plus condo fees, plus crippling insurance costs.

Bart Smith, the attorney for The Lofts’ development group, on July 13 suggested the project be converted to all rentals — 126 apartments. 

Commissioner Clayton Lopez, whose district includes the housing site, has adamantly supported the home ownership units, saying the commission promised the community an entry method into home ownership, but the purchase prices being presented were entirely unaffordable for working families. 

At a July 26 budget workshop that included a discussion of The Lofts, the commissioners heard from Christine Hurley, director of the Monroe County Land Authority, who pointed out that even with the $4 million from the land authority, a significant gap in affordability would make the home ownership units out of reach for most income levels given the cost of down payments, insurance and condo fees.

She suggested the commission increase its funding request from the land authority, adding that the fund currently has about $13 million available for Key West projects.

Additional funds from the land authority would significantly lower the purchase price of the units.


Land authority funding comes with restrictions — and always has.

If the city and developers accept that funding to lower the home purchase prices, then all owners of the “affordable” townhomes would have to re-qualify every year and prove they still meet the income limits for affordable housing. If their income ends up exceeding the limits, the homeowner would be forced to sell the townhome and move out. 

“If any homeowner’s income exceeds 160% of the county’s area median income, they’d be obligated to sell,” Bart Smith told the city commission at their July 13 meeting. “To us, that’s not homeownership. It restricts your ability to be successful. It restricts upward mobility and we feel it’s a nonstarter. Now, if the commission directs us to accept the land authority money with its restrictions, we’ll do it, but we’d rather not. 

“Our goal is to complete this project, but we don’t feel that people having to restrict their income in order to stay in their home is a good policy,” Smith said. 

The commission committed during its July 26 discussion to work toward changing the language of the land authority funding restrictions to prevent people from having to sell their homes if they end up earning more than the maximum amount. But that will require a legislative change from state officials in Tallahassee.  

Some background

The long-awaited — and debated — affordable housing has been slated for the last 3.2 acres of Truman Waterfront since 2002, when the Navy gave the entire 28-acre property to the city of Key West as part of military downsizing that declared the former submarine base surplus property. 

The city spent nearly two decades turning most of the parcel into a popular and well-used park, with ballfields, green space, art installations, a kids’ splash pad and an amphitheater.

The last 3.2 acres were always slated for affordable housing to benefit local residents, particularly those in the adjacent neighborhood of Bahama Village.

Mandy Miles
Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.