Walmart to get second story? - A view of a city street -

The City of Marathon has received a draft report on its workforce and affordable housing needs. The paper, authored by the Florida International University’s Metropolitan Center, was issued earlier this week and city officials are busy pouring over the details.

“I want to make sure the underlying data supports the conclusions,” said Josh Mothner, chair of the city’s affordable housing task force. “We need to ratify the numbers and use our own expertise to clarify that the baseline data is correct.”

The report paints a grim picture not only of Marathon’s housing needs, but also its general economic health.

In short, housing prices have gone up, while income has gone down.

The Metropolitan Center, a university-based think tank, has recommendations for correcting the imbalance with ideas ranging from luring entrepreneurs to the city to creating a housing authority, as well as housing creation numbers.

It compared the total households (demand) by the number of homes and units for rent (supply) to come up with the numbers. For “owner housing,” FIU estimates the city needs another 1,600 houses or apartments. For renters, there are about 300 units needed. Both categories describe residents with “extremely low” to “middle incomes.”

It also states the city has lost 1,444 units of its housing inventory between 2009 and 2013, an eyebrow-raising figure. Mothner said he has to research exactly what this data reflects.

“If in fact the structures are gone, but the housing allocations still exist on paper, that’s one thing,” he said, referring to mobile home parks demolished to make way for new development before the real estate bubble burst. “But if the units are gone, I want to know where they went.”

As reported previously in The Weekly, the researchers say that Marathon is also suffering from a significant loss of population between 2009 and 2013 — 13.3 percent, most of which were described as households. The report says the 78 percent of the households that left earned between $35,000 and $149,999 per year — an important segment of the city’s wage earners.

“It’s very clear that we are losing professional staff, principally because the ability to own, lease or rent a house is out of their range,” said City Planning Director George Garrett. “That’s the biggest symptom of our problems.”

However, the report also notes Marathon is seeing a rise of millennials and young families. The data is based on American Community Survey results through 2013.

The demographics of Marathon are extremely important to determine so the city can respond by building the right type of affordable housing. Developer Pritam Singh has said publicly that his plans for dormitory-style housing for his employees in the Keys was met with total resistance. What may be needed is housing that can accommodate extended families — grandparents, parents and children all living under one roof — to micro-units for millenials.

The Marathon City Council understands it must act quickly to address the issue. In eight years, the state has said it will stop issuing affordable and residential building permits in the city so the Keys can maintain its 24-hour hurricane evacuation model.

“Bottom line, we don’t have enough available housing,” Garrett said. “I think we need to acquire land for housing before it becomes too expensive for an affordable housing project.”

“… the city’s existing and new residents compete in a national and international housing investment market for homes and apartments. Further, the strict limit on housing choice in its island market places a premium on developing local policy that quickly addresses growing local housing affordability issues.”

—-FIU Metropolitan Center draft report


Median household income: 2009: $51,224, 2013: $47,073

Per capita income: 2010: $34,559, 20013: $29,768

2,204 – The number of seasonal, recreation and occasional use “vacancies” in Marathon.

30% – The percentage of owner-occupied units with a mortgage that is more than 50 percent of income.

53.8 % occupied housing

46.2 % vacant housing

51 % -Percentage of homeowners who pay 30 percent or more of household income on mortgage.

27 % – Percentage of renters who pay 30 percent or more of household income on rent.

Its very clear that we are losing professional staff, principally because the ability to own lease or renta a house from the low to middle come range to pay for it. That’s the biggest symptom of our problems.



Sara Matthis
Sara Matthis thinks community journalism is important, but not serious; likes weird and wonderful children (she has two); and occasionally tortures herself with sprint-distance triathlons, but only if she has a good chance of beating her sister.