Affordable housing units are coming to Monroe County

Christine Hurley, executive director of the Monroe County Land Authority, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s been going on with land in the county.

Affordable housing is a topic that’s always on the discussion list and Garden View Apartments recently saw a groundbreaking.

Hurley said, “We’re super excited to be a partner with Key West and the Monroe County Housing Authority on this project. Over 100 units on Stock Island and in that project, the land authority contributed $6.5 million to fund the construction. Key West contributed funding and then the bulk of the money came from the state of Florida. After Hurricane Irma, there was a lot of funding that was available for us to try to rebuild our housing stock and talk about complex paperwork. You’ve never seen anything like it when you’ve got all these different agencies funding projects. But the groundbreaking happened and based on the housing authority information that was presented at the groundbreaking, there were over 600 applicants that they went through to get people into those units.”

There are more than 100 units available.

There are other sites that are being developed in conjunction with the Housing Authority.

Hurley said, “We’ve been really lucky to partner with them in the past several years. They’ve become super active recently. We had another groundbreaking of 12, scattered lots. Eleven were on Big Pine and one was on Little Torch. Those are going to be individual houses. Super nice, two bedrooms. And that funding was, again, a partnership. We originally bought all the land. What was unique about this is that we bought this site that previously had a house on them. So we did not need to go and get new, what we call the ROGO allocations for affordable housing, because the site’s already had a ROGO exemption. So even though they were destroyed by the hurricane, we were able to get the rights to rebuild them.”

So the Land Authority bought the land, then the Housing Authority bought the land from the Land Authority, using funding from the state of Florida, and then the Land Authority re-contributed that funding back toward construction.

Hurley said it’s “super, super complicated, but that’s kind of what you have to do these days to pull off affordable housing. Those are under construction. I recently rode out there and looked at a couple of them. The columns were up. They are going to be modulars and more for a family. The Garden Views were one bedroom, one bath, and these are more of the family style units.”

The units will be operated by the Housing Authority as rentals.

The Stewardship Act did get approved this year and there is funding on its way to the Keys.

Hurley said, “I think that’s been from 2016 when the bill was originally passed, in that bill, just basically $20 million is typically set aside for the Keys for water quality projects. Then another $5 million is set aside for land acquisition. And the state in the beginning years tried to spend that money themselves buying up land down here, but their process is very slow and it’s more geared toward buying large tracts of land. You can imagine the state buying thousands of acres, typically in their deals. So what we came up with a couple of years ago was a different recipe where the land authority buys the land, gets it under contract, because we can do so fairly quickly. Then we go through all the process while we’re closing on it ourselves, we start immediately working on reselling it to the state, so we can replenish our funding, and use up that $5 million a year that the state sets aside for us.”

If homeowners or landowners are looking to possibly sell their land, they should contact the Land Authority at 305-295-5180.

Hurley said, “We are always, always, always looking to buy vacant land. If you do have a property that had a house on it, that was damaged in Irma, or has a ROGO exemption, we are also looking to buy those for the Upper Keys right now. We’ve tried a few vacant lots recently that we thought would be good for affordable housing for that Habitat for Humanity. We like to provide housing all around the keys. We know that traffic is bad and the closer the workers are to their places of employment, the better. So, we’re open for business and we want willing sellers. That’s our motto basically.”

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