Key West wants to hear from YOU

When it comes to workforce housing or vacation rental ordinances, Key West is all about listening to what the public has to say.

Key West Mayor Teri Johnston joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s going on in the city.

A public hearing about workforce housing occurred recently and it looks like the city might be back to square one.

Johnston said, “That’s the process. Our assistant city attorney explained it very well. That’s the process. You draft up an ordinance and then you bring it back to the people. We have done some extensive work trying to garner public comment on this ordinance because it’s a difficult one. It’s a tough one to wrangle with because on one side you’ve got property rights. On the other side, we’re a tourist destination where we need to maintain a viable labor force or else your title of being one of the premier tourist destinations in the United States certainly is in jeopardy.”

The city is trying to bridge that gap.

“It’s all about public comment,” Johnston said. “This topic requires somebody to work on it seven days a week, 24 hours a day. You can’t have other jobs that take you here and there. You have to noodle through this because there are so many aspects of we need to retain the existing affordable housing that we’ve got and we’ve done a pretty good job because most of the properties now are under a 99-year lease. So we’ve done a good job on that side, but we also have residents out there in our community that are renting affordably, that are not receiving any benefit.”

The city is looking into possible tax breaks or subsidies that could help.

Johnston continued, “Then we need to create some housing. That’s a challenge for Key West because we are highly regulated by the state in the number of units that we can build based on hurricane evacuation.”

There are 168 units left that can be built.

Johnston said, “We are highly restricted by our hurricane evacuation time, which means we have to be able to get every, single person out of Key West in a 24-hour period of time if we have a mandatory evacuation.”

The issue will continue to be discussed.

Another issue the city has been working through is the vacation rental ordinance.

Johnston explained, “People had to apply within a period of time from May 3 if they wanted to rent their units out for more than 30 days. If you did not do that, then you were banned from having that third license, if you will.”

Some of the feedback the city received pointed out that people are buying homes with the intention of living in them two or three years down the road, but until then, they would like to rent them out to get money to help cover the mortgage.

Johnston said, “We also have a situation out there where mortgages are being given out right now based on potential rental income, so that impacts that group also. It created a new category of rental license, which is one to six month.”

Right now there is a transient license, which is daily; a short term rental license, which is anything over 30 days.

This would create a new one which is one to six months.

Public comment will continue to be heard.

The city is looking for an affordable housing director as well as a city attorney and a city manager.

The City Commissioners will meet tomorrow at 5 p.m. in City Hall.

For tomorrow’s agenda, click here: