July 24, 2019

KEVIN WADLOW/Free Press
Work at Windley Point, the 16-unit Habitat for Humanity of the Upper Keys project in Islamorada, remains on schedule and could be complete by mid-2020. Prospective owners or tenants have until Aug. 31 to begin the application process.

KEVIN WADLOW/Free Press Work at Windley Point, the 16-unit Habitat for Humanity of the Upper Keys project in Islamorada, remains on schedule and could be complete by mid-2020. Prospective owners or tenants have until Aug. 31 to begin the application process.

ISLAMORADA — Midway through construction of Habitat for Humanity of the Upper Keys’ largest project, the 16-unit complex on Windley Key is steadily rising from the ground.

Doors are not yet open but potential residents can submit their qualification applications for review.

“The next big step is that people actually are going to have the opportunity to possibly be living there” in mid-2020, said Jack Niedbalski, Upper Keys Habitat executive director. “It’s exciting for Islamorada and the community.”

Deadline for applying for the Windley Point project at mile marker 84.5 closes Aug. 31.

“If people are interested, now is the time to get the ball rolling. It is a rather involved process,” Niedbalski said earlier this week. “About 40 applications have already come in, but we’re still accepting applications.”

All similarly designed, each of the 16 two-story homes will feature two bedrooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms in addition to a kitchen and living area above ground-floor parking. Eight units will go into ownership, with the remaining eight dedicated as rentals.

Cost of Windley Point’s 16 units and commercial space for Habitat’s fundraising ReStore furniture shop is approaching $3.9 million.

“That’s a little more than we planned but unexpected things always come up,” Niedbalski said.

Key qualifications that will largely determine eventual tenants and owners:

• Maximum and minimum income limits, based on family size.

“You can’t make too much, but you have to be able to pay the mortgage or rent,” Niedbalski said.

The application requires a credit score no lower than 600, and potential residents must be willing to discuss financial circumstances with agency staff.

• Monroe County residency of at least a year, or commuting to work in the Keys from Miami-Dade for two years. There must be a housing need, based on family members and the percentage of monthly income currently spent on housing.

• Willingness to partner with Habitat to donate 300 to 500 hours of “sweat equity.”

“It’s not just working on your house, it’s helping the next guy,” Niedbaski said. “There are ways to combine things and we’re pretty flexible. Friends can work to contribute hours.”

Habitat for Humanity of the Upper Keys recently began work on its Key Heights/Esslinger Corner project at mile marker 89.

After land clearing, construction could start in the fall on two single-family homes and one duplex. Those four housing units are designated for home ownership. Applications for the Key Heights/Esslinger Corner will remain open after Aug. 31.

“We’re staying pretty busy,” Niedbalski said. “When we get done with Windley Point and Keys Heights, we’ll have reached beyond our goal of 50 homes in the Upper Keys. But there are another five on our radar.”

Contributions to the construction fund are always welcome, he said.

For applications or more information, visit Habitat’s website at habitatupperkeys.org.

kwadlow@keysnews.com