Affordable housing is one of the big issues in the Keys these days. There’s no question that a lack of affordability is a problem when it comes to retaining the local work force. Local politicians have attempted to frame this issue as a “crisis” that demands urgent attention. And, of course, taxpayer money. Lots and lots of taxpayer money. Every problem under the sun seems to require lots and lots of taxpayer money, doesn’t it?
In Part 1, I gave an overview of the issue. Unsurprisingly, the City of Key West actually pushes policies that worsen the situation even as they raise the alarm about the “crisis”. The Blue Paper did a series of articles on an amnesty program for transient rentals. I discussed that in Part 2. Interestingly enough, when I checked into whether or not county commissioner Heather Carruthers had a stake in one of these properties, I found that the IRS had placed a lien on her primary residence. That opens up a whole new nightmare for taxpayers. A financially out-of-control commissioner with authority over our tax dollars.
It’s impossible to mention Carruthers without mentioning her Emergency Services Surtax (ESS) proposal. Carruthers sold i as a tax “shift” that would provide a tax break to locals. Nothing could be further from the truth. The real beneficiaries would have been the owners of high-value properties, such as hotels. Locals, especially renters, would have paid more for fire and emergency service while wealthy out-of-town property owners would have paid nothing. This is just another example of how local politicians in the Keys actually worsen the affordable housing “crisis” even has they pretend they are trying to improve things.
The Blue Paper has discovered yet another tax break that may favor certain owners of transient rentals. I’ve got lots of questions. Is this in Key West only or is it county-wide? If affordable housing really is a “crisis”, then why does the tax code reward transient rentals and not affordable housing units? Are there any tax breaks for affordable housing already on the books? There are already big market incentives for transient rentals, so why add tax breaks on top of it?
For local politicians, the affordable housing “crisis” really isn’t about providing affordable housing. It’s about hyping up a problem to create a sense of panic, and then using that sense of panic to push for huge expenditures of taxpayer dollars. That’s what the proposed Peary Court purchase was all about. And that’s how the Florida Keys Stewardship Act (FKSA) went from a bill to secure funding for environmental projects to a bill that opens the door to more development in the Keys.
Once again, it falls on the taxpayers and the citizens to watchdog this whole freak show to make sure that the affordable housing problem is actually resolved, not made worse.