For decades prior to Hurricane Irma, there has been a scarcity of affordable housing in the Keys due very simply to limited supply and high demand. Already faced with the highest cost of living in Florida, that situation was intensified by Hurricane Irma when so many homes were heavily damaged or destroyed. The hardest hit areas were those in the very neighborhoods of the Lower and Middle Keys where service and hourly workers could afford to live. The majority of those displaced are teachers, police officers, servers, cashiers, firefighters, and the like – the very people who make the Keys what it is.
Thanks to the generosity of our many Irma Relief Fund donors, UWFK is one of the first organizations to step forward in support of building new affordable housing in the hard hit neighborhood of The Avenues in Big Pine.
Made possible by a matching grant initiative, United Way of the Florida Keys and Community Foundation of the Florida Keys donated $22,500 each and a matching gift of $45,000 came from The Ocean Reef Community Foundation. These grants will offset the costs of construction for the first Keys Cottage on Big Pine Key, which will be offered as a rental to a family whose home was destroyed due to the storm.
"United Way of the Florida Keys is proud to be a the forefront of supporting affordable housing for the working families in the Keys. We look forward to the family moving in to the first home by late summer," says Leah Stockton, UWFK CEO.
In April the Monroe County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a request from the FL Keys Community Land Trust (FKCLT) for nearly $400,000 to purchase four lots at $99,999 each to further offset construction costs for four code compliant, deed restricted affordable workforce rental homes on Big Pine Key. The county will lease back the parcels to the (FKCLT) for a period of 99 years. Restrictions in the lease allow units to be subleased only to households deriving a minimum of 70 percent of their household income from gainful employment in Monroe County. Monthly rents, not including utilities, shall not exceed 30 percent of the amount that represents up to 80 percent of Monroe County’s area median income.
“We are thrilled Ocean Reef, United Way and The Florida Keys Community Foundation have so generously stepped forward to help with the affordable housing crisis in The Keys,” said Michael Laurent, Executive Director of The Florida Keys Community Land Trust. “We are honored and humbled by their trust in our team as we endeavor to make truly affordable, resilient and dignified rental housing available to working families in Monroe County.”
The Florida Keys Community Land Trust is a non-profit 501C3 established in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Irma to preserve and enhance the way of life for working families of Monroe County, Florida. Through the community land trust model, FKCLT constructs energy efficient and resilient Keys Cottages designed by Marianne Cusato of the world -renowned Katrina Cottage initiative that will be deed restricted and offered as rentals to households earning less than 80 – 120 percent of the area median income of Monroe County. The FKCLT, working closely with the Florida Housing Coalition, is committed to bringing workforce housing to The Keys into perpetuity. For more information about FKCLT, visit affordablekeys.org.