Uh oh! Looks like the affordable housing “CRISIS!” is coming straight for your wallet.
With 47 affordable housing deed restrictions set to expire in the next two years, the Monroe County Commission is now discussing how to save workforce housing.
The commission briefly broached the subject when it was talking about signing paperwork to release several properties from their deed restrictions and plans to revisit the issue within the next several months.
“How do we save these restrictions?” County Commissioner Heather Carruthers asked. “Do we have any program to buy back these restrictions? I haven’t seen anything from the Land Authority and nothing from staff. What can we do here?”
The bolding is mine.
First, I think it would be helpful to talk about the difference between a “CRISIS!” and a crisis.
- According to Merriam Webster, the definition of a crisis is “a situation that has reached a critical phase”. Most people would agree that affordable housing (more specifically affordable workforce housing) is indeed a crisis by that definition.
- Then there’s a “CRISIS!” – a situation whereby unscrupulous government officials manufacture a sense of panic in order to bypass laws, ethics or plain common sense in order to better their own situation or that of their associates without actually addressing the stated problem.
Here are two recent examples of where a “CRISIS!” was used to great affect:
- Peary Court. The City of Key West sought to purchase a multi-family development for $55 million. This development had been purchased by the current owner two years prior for $35 million. Fortunately, the citizens of Key West had a say in the matter and they shot it straight down. Unfortunately, the city commissioners did manage to get their paws on $12 million in tourism taxes to throw at it. Ultimately, no additional units of workforce housing were created. You can read more about the whole sorry tale here.
- Ocean’s Edge. Now here’s a project that included 49 ROGO units specifically set aside for affordable housing in the initial stages. But somehow under the not-so-watchful eye of the Monroe County planning department, those 49 units were rolled into a 175-room resort. There were calls to investigate how this gigantic oopsie-poopsie might have happened, but the county commissioners refused. There’s more information here.
In both cases, the scary idea of an affordable housing “CRISIS!” was used to advance projects that did nothing to actually address the affordable housing crisis, but did a whole lot to squander scarce resources (taxpayer dollars and ROGO units). Twelve million dollars and 49 ROGO’s went up in smoke. Just like that.
So when county commissioner, Heather Carruthers (of all people!), starts talking about “buying back” affordable housing restrictions, I immediately get nervous. Because of the Florida Keys Stewardship Act (FKSA), the county has been empowered to spend taxpayer money on such programs. That is a terrifying prospect. Past experience tells me it won’t end well – not for the taxpayers anyway.