Public officials in the Keys have declared the lack of affordable housing a “CRISIS!”. In their manufactured panic, they have mobilized to throw oodles of taxpayer money at the issue. Here’s a quick rundown.
- City of Key West officials entertained a proposal to spend $55 million on a 157-unit apartment building, Peary Court. The expenditure would not have created any new affordable housing. The idea was to “preserve” existing affordable housing at $350,000 per unit. Fortunately, the citizens of Key West had a say. They voted “no”.
- The city commissioners then made an end run around the will of the voters by using $12 million in Tourism Impact (TIMP) tax money to facilitate the purchase of Peary Court by another buyer. Theoretically, this $12 million contribution will “preserve” some unspecified number of affordable units.
- The Florida Keys Stewardship Act (FKSA) was sold to the public as an “environmental” bill. But the true emphasis is on expanded development, under the guise of providing affordable housing.
Key West is the epicenter of the “affordable” housing “CRISIS!”. While I fully believe that there is a shortage of affordable housing and that shortage is somewhat more serious in Key West, the “CRISIS!” also provides an opportunity for the unscrupulous to make taxpayer money poof away into the sky. And there is a geographical component to that. You only need to look at the wastewater projects to see that this is true. Lower Keys projects tend to be massive resource sucks. They are more expensive. Costs escalate. There is a lack of transparency. Taxpayer money is frittered away. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Some recent news items raise the question: how much of this “CRISIS!” is self-created? The Blue Paper is covering this aspect of the issue closely. Links are listed in reverse chronological order.
http://thebluepaper.com/city-manager-defends-amnesty-program-hundreds-illegal-transient-rentals-claiming-not-happening/: Key West City Manager, Jim Scholl, defends the city’s practice of extending amnesty to illegal transient rentals.
http://thebluepaper.com/crime-pays-key-west-especially-get-caught/: The Blue Paper discovers the city’s amnesty program for illegal transient rentals.
http://thebluepaper.com/developers-to-build-on-imaginary-land-at-sunset-marina/: Developers playing games with density and city officials allowing them to get away with it.
http://thebluepaper.com/new-development-at-sunset-marina-commercial-slip-owners-cry-foul/: Forcing small businesses out is one way to address the “CRISIS!”. If people can’t make a living, I suppose they’ll have to move away.
http://thebluepaper.com/sunset-marina-liveaboards-jeopardy-more-afforable-housing-hocus-pocus/: If there’s amnesty for illegal transient rentals, why can’t there be amnesty for illegal live-aboards? Live-aboards are a form of affordable housing.
Oddly enough, the Navy is not seeing this “CRISIS!”. They just conducted a study claiming that Key West has a 34% vacancy rate. Hmmm….
Now if the affordable housing “CRISIS!” in Key West, is partially self-created, should county-wide taxpayers be expected to foot the bill for addressing it? Hell no. Not until the city gets it act together. Heck, the county needs to get its act together, too. The shortage of affordable housing is an issue county-wide, not just in Key West. While the problem may be somewhat worse in Key West, it isn’t that much worse. Besides, the latest disclosures indicate that the city could partially address the issue by discontinuing practices that undermine the creation and preservation of affordable housing.
Let’s not have a repeat of the wastewater mess. Most local taxpayers are struggling to hang on. The county’s wastefulness and carelessness with taxpayer money makes things far more difficult.