Florida Keys News
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Workers housing issue on agenda

As the Florida Keys real estate market continues to improve, so does the need for more affordable housing, officials say.

In the past two years, the property values have steadily risen and so has the concern by officials with the Monroe County government and municipalities in the Keys for affordable and workforce housing.

County commissioners will discuss the issue when they meet at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the Murray Nelson Government Center in Key Largo.

The commission has three items on the agenda that deal with affordable housing. The commission has to advertise a public meeting that state Rep. Holly Raschein, R-Key Largo, is holding Monday in Marathon with county and other local government officials to discuss the affordable housing issue in the Keys and possible solutions, Raschein said.

The affordable and worker housing issue is one that Raschein said she has been hearing the most about in recent months. The lack of affordable housing is impacting the job pool in the Keys, she said.

Raschein would like to see more state grant funding from programs such as the William E. Sadowski Act come to the Keys to create and maintain workforce housing, she said.

"Workforce is a big deal for our community," Raschein said. "I can't think of a place in the state that needs it more than the Keys. Sometimes we are worker poor."

County Administrator Roman Gastesi has two items on Wednesday's agenda dealing with affordable housing. Gastesi will ask to reconvene a county committee that was tasked with coming up with solutions for affordable housing issues. The committee was never officially disbanded but has been "dormant" for years, Gastesi said. It stopped meeting after the real estate market collapsed about seven years ago.

Gastesi wants the committee to go beyond just housing to talk about the need to maintain public transportation, he said. Many Upper Keys businesses rely on workers from Homestead and Florida City on the mainland.

Gastesi will also ask the commission to vote on a $19,250 contract with the Florida Conflict Resolution Consortium, which would research the affordable housing issue in the Keys and then make recommendations to the county commission.

"This is a complicated issue that needs to be addressed with a comprehensive approach," Gastesi said. "If we are going to do it, we need to do it right."

tohara@keysnews.com

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