The Monroe County Land Authority can help with ROGO issues

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 in the county.

The land authority can help with ROGO issues.

Hurley said, “We are a partner with the county and basically when someone is waiting for ROGO allocation for four years, they are eligible to apply for what’s called administrative relief. Basically they fill out an application, it goes to the county commissioners, and at that time the commission reviews the conditions of the property. For example, if it’s a tier one with good environmental habitat, then the preferred option for the board is to recommend a purchase of the property. At that point, we get involved. We do an appraisal always of the property with a licensed appraiser and we offer the full appraised value during administrative relief. Basically, the law was set up to make sure that that person gets offered a fair price, not negotiating, not trying to lowball them. Then they’re able to take that offer and convey the property to the land authority. Or if they don’t want to do that, they can then stay competing for the ROGO allocation. There’s all kinds of ways, they can add points to their application, they can buy other land and dedicate it, and then that makes their score go up, which makes it more likely that they could get a permit. So there’s a lot of steps through the development approval process where the land authority does get involved and that’s one of them that actually has been occurring more frequently over this past year.”

The land authority can also help a land owner interested in doing a transaction with the county.

Hurley said, “We welcome it. We invite you to call our office. We want people to reach out to us to try to sell land. We have a good revenue source and we also have a state partner where if the land is within their targeted Florida Forever boundary, we can purchase it, and then we resell it at what we paid to the state to replenish our money, so we can buy more.”

What is the revenue source?

Hurley said, “The good news is, we get no tax money at all. We are fortunate to have a set aside in tourists impact tax money. So when a tourist comes and they stay at a hotel or a vacation rental, they have to pay taxes on the rate they’re paying and a half a penny of that amount comes to the land authority every year. We have two separate pots, one pot for Key West and one pot for the rest of the Keys. That’s the money we use to buy the property.”

Affordable housing is a major concern in the Keys and the land authority is trying to help.

Hurley said, “Key West, since they have a dedicated pot of money, and they don’t have much vacant land down there to develop, they are always focused on using our funds for affordable housing. This past week, they passed a resolution requesting our governing board, the land authority governing board, which is the same members as the Board of County Commissioners, approve spending $10 million of their money for an additional somewhere between 45 and 54 units over in the area called Poinciana Plaza, that the Key West Housing Authority owns and operates. That 10 million can go towards the construction of new housing there and the unique part of this, which I’m really happy they’re doing, and I know our governing board will be as well when it comes in front of them, is that those units are going to be rented to households that earn up to 120% of area median income. So normally your housing authority has rents focus on the income levels of like 80%. By going up to 120% with these newer unit, it’s going to accomplish a couple of things, but the biggest one is that households like your firefighters, your teachers, they earn more than that 80% level and they’re kind of a left out category when you think of affordable housing from the federal perspective. So it’s interesting to me now that housing authority is going to branch out a little bit and focus on targeting units for that kind of income level.”

Is this an expansion of units?

“It’s new,” Hurley confirmed. “Because we have limited funds at the land authority, we try to focus on or approve projects that are providing new units. Rehab, you’ve already got units there. That’s a maintenance cost these developers need to set aside and redo their units and our board, typically prioritizes new units.”

The Lofts for the 3.2 acre site in Key West is still underway.

Hurley said, “That one is going great and construction, they did an update to the commission last week. Basically, it sounds like those units will start the rentals, at least, maybe coming online for the spring of next year and then summer for the ownership units. Our board has still not reviewed their request for funding to buy down the cost of those units. But that’s coming up soon and the state did pass a statute amendment that we requested that will allow those owners to only qualify one time based on income when they buy the unit. You might remember we had some discussions where our law really said you needed to qualify annually and for homeownership that doesn’t work. So that’s good. That’s about 5 million to go to that project. Then the next project is in the same area where the Poinciana housing is, but it’s going to be built by I’ll call it the Continuum of Care. It’s basically permanent housing, but it’s for the homeless programs that the Continuum of Care run for Key West. I think of it as it’s not a homeless shelter, it’s permanent housing, that people that are coming out of homelessness, can rent and then work toward getting themselves a good footing, being able to afford their rent, and work and manage their lives in a better way for the future.”

Anyone with vacant land who would like to sell it, please call the land authority.

Hurley said, “Our phone number is 305-295-5180.”

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