January 3, 2018

Congratulations to the Monroe County Planning Commission for approving a 208-unit affordable housing project on Rockland Key, which received vocal support from local business owners as well as Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay and Key West Mayor Craig Cates. It was encouraging to see the appointed Planning Commission not buckle to the NIMBYism that has derailed needed workforce housing in other parts of unincorporated Monroe County.

2018 needs to be the year that the county green-lights deed-restricted affordable housing projects that adhere to local development rules. If the Planning Commission cannot muster the backbone to upset a few for the betterment of the Florida Keys, then the Monroe County Commission should replace these political appointees with those who can.

Few of us like to see change in our neighborhoods, particularly in the form of large developments. But housing projects recommended by planning staff that meet a critical need should not be denied due to unfounded fears. County code spells out a plethora of requirements for developers to meet. Planning commissioners also should never be allowed to make up and apply their own legally suspect standards in opposing a project.

If we really want to preserve our communities, we might want to consider what changes such opposition to housing is causing. It is common knowledge that there has been a steady exodus of many who serve in the local workforce due to the challenges of making a living in a service-based economy with astronomical housing costs. Hurricane Irma has only intensified the problem by taking away housing and temporarily shuttering businesses that sustain our workforce.

If you expect deputies and firefighters to respond to your 911 call, you might wish to support workforce housing in your community. If you have a favorite server who knows what you will order before you sit down, you might wish to support workforce housing in your community. If you think it’s important for your child or grandchild to get an education that will prepare him or her for the future, you might wish to support workforce housing in your community. If you want to continue to enjoy the comforts that make the Keys a special place to live, you might wish to support workforce housing in your community.

These points have been made many times before. And the objections are also well established. Building affordable housing is already a challenge here due to a lack of land. But it does not need to be as difficult as we have made it. The biggest obstacle to affordable housing is a lack of political will. It is time to change that.

– The Key West Citizen