Let’s talk land!

If there’s one thing that can feel like it’s in short supply in the Keys, it’s land.

Christine Hurley, executive director of the Monroe County Land Authority, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM to talk about land in the county.

The core mission of the comprehensive plan is to acquire property for conservation use.

Hurley said, “We have a lot of programs within our agency. We are often the agency that goes out and purchases property from people who might expect development or have expectations of receiving permits. We know how limited those are.”

The authority also buys for specific habitats for endangered species.

Hurley said, “We have the authority to partner with other entities to move forward affordable housing projects. Most often that’s in the form of buying land to support development of those types of projects.”

The land authority has also been trying to get grants from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help private property owners elevate their homes. A grant was received to elevate four homes.

Hurley explained, “They’re privately owned. Typically the feds will pay 75 percent of the cost and the homeowners come up with 25 percent. It can end up costing the homeowner more depending on the grand total cost of the project. Normally the grants are around $200,000 total.”

Every year FEMA offers Flood Mitigation Assistance.

Hurley said, “This is a long haul. When you apply it takes a long time for the applications to go through the review of the state, Florida Department of Emergency Management and then our federal FEMA that everybody knows about.”

For more information on flood mitigation assistance, click here: https://www.monroecounty-fl.gov/768/Grant-Funding-Flood-Mitigation-Assistanc

There are steps to take, including working with a contractor to develop a budget, as well as filling out forms to explain the situation of the property owner.

Hurley said, “Right now anyone can start working on their application and that would be submitted in the 2023 packages.”

The land authority also serves as an intermediary between land owners and governmental agencies that regulate land use.

Affordable housing is certainly a big topic in the Keys.

Hurley said, “In Key West, especially, we are working with the Key West folks to help put some funding toward what they call the 3.2 acre project near Bahama Village. Our funds there will be used to buy down the purchase price of the home ownership units.”

The land authority has also been working with Habitat for Humanity of the Lower Keys on four units in Big Pine and four units in the lower Keys.

Hurley said, “We bought the land to help them be able to build the structures and then the people that go through their program end up home owners.”

There are also lots in the upper Keys that were given to Habitat for Humanity of the Upper Keys for single family homes and there are nine units underway in Marathon.

Hurley said, “We’ve got stuff scattered throughout and we are always looking for opportunities, so if anybody’s got land that’s appropriate for affordable housing or units like that, we are interested.”

The land authority requires a deed restriction that will limit the housing up to 160 percent of area median income in pricing forever.

Hurley said, “Typically when we buy the land and we record that deed restriction, we donate the property or you can kind of think of it as we still own it sometimes also, but we’re reserving it for affordability forever. So the partners then usually pay for the construction of the units and then that savings of the land cost is passed on to the ultimate either renter or buyer.”

State laws are followed for local acquisitions and appraisals are done regularly.

Hurley said, “We do so much land buying that we are kind of familiar with the market and we watch how it changes and when it goes up and down, so we don’t wait for an appraisal to make offers if we think we’re confident in what the value of that property is.”

The land authority also partners with the state of Florida on conservation purchases.

Hurley said, “This is new that we started this past year where we buy land or pre-acquire it in what the state calls their Florida forever project boundary and then we are able to re-sell it to the state, which replenishes our funding and lets us do more.”

The lack of permits can actually bring more activity for the land authority.

Hurley said, “People to elevate their application to build a house will buy land and dedicate it for points in the system. That has definitely in the past year or two really ramped up, which drives up the cost of property. What that has kind of helped the land authority do is be able to offer prices that are enticing vacant land owners to want to sell. Previously to that situation, a lot of people because the value of a vacant lot is fairly low, they’re like well we’ll just hold it. Now we’ve really gotten successful.” For more information on elevating homes, call 305-453-8796 or click here: https://www.monroecounty-fl.gov/272/Land-Authority