Christine Hurley, executive director for 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.
What has the legislative session in Tallahassee possibly brought for the land authority?
Hurley said, “We do have a couple of things rumbling around up there. Number one, and I’m sure you’ve talked about this is our commission worked this past year with the TDC, to utilize a one time chunk of money that really came as a surprise during COVID, when we had such high visitorship down here. If that funding comes forward, the land authority will likely be involved with helping the county find sites or redevelop housing for the tourism industry. The housing does have to be linked to tourism. So that’s kind of exciting. Then the other thing is, we right now have in our state law requirement that for our affordable housing assistance, people’s income cannot exceed 160% of area median income. So that makes sure that we don’t provide housing to people who really should be able to find it themselves. But that is a difficulty for home ownership because once an organization like Habitat sells a house to a buyer, they don’t want to income qualify those people over and over again. That’s weird, right? When you own a house. So we’re seeking a clarification that, in that case, we do the income qualification at the time of purchase, and then it’s kind of over until they resell the house, then it has to be resold to a qualified income buyer.”
The land authority also acquires land with dilapidated structures on them and repurposes it for affordable housing.
Hurley said, “I think it’s important to talk about this right now, because I’m sure everyone is hearing about how the local governments are running out of ROGO allocations and the state is deciding how many more to give the county, if any. So following Irma on Big Pine Key, especially we focused on purchasing properties, where people wanted to sell out, they couldn’t remodel the home that was damaged, maybe they didn’t get enough insurance money, maybe they were uninsured. We’ve been partnering with different entities in Big Pine, the Housing Authority and the Lower Keys Habitat on those sites, demolishing the structures or what’s left of them, and then rebuilding them and the brilliance in that is, you don’t have to get a new allocation. The house is already there and so it’s grandfathered. That makes a really big deal not only for future development, but also kind of in expedience, because you can go right to permitting and rebuild. So we’ve started seeking up in Key Largo sites like this as well. They did not have as much damage from Hurricane Irma as the Lower Keys but there are areas where maybe trailers have existed for decades and they’ve run down and now it’s time that the structure gets redone. So recently, we’ve been pretty successful thank goodness to help out and partner with the Upper Keys Habitat. We’ve got in February, a couple purchases coming up. One location has six structures that need removed and that will provide a really nice site for future development for units for homeownership through Habitat for Humanity. Anyone who knows you have a site that you don’t want to redevelop yourselves, or you have a neighbor or someone you want to talk to just try to get the word out that land authority is willing to purchase those before you list them, or even if you’ve already listed with a realtor, we’d love the chance to offer on the property and help get it redeveloped for affordable housing.”
There are many current projects in the works.
Hurley said, “We’ve got down in the Lower Keys, I think our housing authority is going to wrap up a trailer park that was redeveloped where we purchased the land, and then 12 scattered sites with the same situations. So that’ll be this year that they open them. They recently opened up the waiting list to get into those units. So it’s interesting, they use a lottery system where people apply and then they go through a lottery and get selected, then they income qualify, and as long as everything checks out, they end up with a really nice, brand new, affordable rental.”