The Key West Housing Authority Board will see some changes

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

There will be some changes to the housing board. 

Johnston said, “For a number of months now. I’ve been looking at making some changes on the housing authority. I certainly discussed those with executive director Randy Sterling and I am going to make two appointments to the board. The first one is a replacement for Roosevelt Sands, Sr. who has already retired and my replacement for Mr. Sands will be Thaddeus Cohen. Many people in the area know Thaddeus Cohen. He’s a resident of Bahama Village. He was our planning director here in the city of Key West for a number of years. I worked with him closely as city commissioner for district five. I found that he has to be very, very knowledgeable in the planning process. Also, he’s a very straightforward, straight shooter, will tell you what he thinks. He’s an idea man, understands creativity in housing. He also understands climate change, has a broad background. I was always very impressed with Mr. Cohen as I worked with him as planning director. So he is my choice for that board appointment. I will be making an appointment to replace Mr. Bob Dean. Bob has served on the Housing Authority Board for a number of years. My experience with Robert Cintron, first of all was as president of FIRM, Fair Insurance Rates in Monroe. Robert donated his time to that organization and was very instrumental in getting us through and getting our successes in Tallahassee that to date has saved the ratepayers in Monroe County over three quarters of a billion dollars in windstorm insurance rates. So I’ve had a really positive experience with Robert. He is involved in everything in the city from the Truman Waterfront to the parks and recreation board. He never balks at donating his time to improve this city and and he’s going to be a wonderful fit there on the Housing Authority Board. I will be making those two appointments and then also, Mr. Frank Toppino, his son Richard Toppino, had contacted me and said, when my father’s term is up, or he decides to step down from the board, as you know, Mr. Toppino had his his 100th birthday this year. I will, I will be appointing Richard Toppino to take his place. So three very knowledgeable men in in Housing.” 

There are five appointees on the Housing Board. 

Johnston said, “If you remember, about a year ago, maybe a year and a half ago, in state statute it allows you also to increase a board from five to seven. I actually brought that idea in front of the City Commission, asking them to bring on two new members, while those members serve out their terms, and the board really wanted me to appoint members to there instead of adding a board that would bring them up to seven, which, is kind of unusual, because all of our boards have seven members on them, every single board in the city of Key West with the exception of the Housing Authority Board. So I’ll acquiesce to their wishes. We left it at five. So here’s my two new appointments with Richard Toppino being in line to replace his father Frank Toppino.” 

What are the goals of the Housing Authority? 

Johnston said, “I think what it does and my intention is to bring new skill sets and new ideas to a board that’s had members serving on it for 30, 40 50 years. So, we are arguably in the worst housing crisis that we have had in the history of Key West and it’s a very opportune time to bring in new ideas, new suggestions and new directions. The Housing Authority manages a little over 10 percent of all housing in the city of Key West, so a very, very important board in the city of Key West and that’s why I get so many people that want to serve on that board. I’ve got people that have been contacting me since I became mayor in 2018, asking to sit on the Key West Housing Authority Board. So it’s a very important board. That’s why I’ve taken time to make appointments. I’ve had some good appointments and I believe that it will enhance the board. It will certainly solidify the working relationships that we have West between the city of Key West and the Housing Authority. Right now it’s going to take everybody to put a bite in this housing crisis. It is going to take the city of Key West working with private developers. It is going to take the city of Key West working closely with the Housing Authority. It is going to take the city of Key West working with Habitat for Humanity and Catholic Charities and Florida Keys Outreach Coalition. Every organization that provides housing, we need to we need to work closely with.”

The Lofts project will be looking to Monroe County and the state legislature to help with changes to the funding. 

Johnston said, “I was so pleased to see the Monroe County Board of County Commissioners step forward to assist us with that. As you know, Al Childress has a very close working relationship with our Senator, Senator Ana Maria Rodriguez. He’s met with her a number of times along with Commissioner Lopez. I’ve met with our Senator and she has a really good grasp and is certainly willing to bring forth new legislation that will change the way the land authority looks at individuals that are 160 percent of AMI. So it looks like we’ve got a lot of support on that. We’ll see what happens when the state legislation begins to meet.” 

The next city commissions meeting will be October 12. 

Johnston said, “We’ll be approving a lot of things. We’ve got a full agenda and we are getting ready to head into season so, rest while you can before we open our doors and the world comes in.”