Although both Monroe County and the City of Key West have declared an affordable housing crisis, nearly nothing has been done about it. The problem has been acute for the past 5 years and now there is little excuse for the inaction.
Key West and the County have both talked the issue to death. Often the biggest decision they can make is to hire yet another "consultant" to figure out the housing problem.
I am going to offer a solution. It is very simple. BUILD AFFORDABLE HOUSES!
What is so difficult to understand? Some will say that the state regulations have made it nearly impossible to build in the Keys. But hasn't Tallahassee recognized the problem and made gestures that they'll help. Why haven't our public officials gone to the Governor of Florida and asked for affordable housing allocations recently?
I think our representatives should be embarrassed. Their inaction is causing our community to erode. Worker shortages are one problem. Overworked workers is another. And maybe most troubling, is the exclusiveness that is being caused by the exorbitant cost of living here. It is a little more than weird to see the ultra-rich newcomer outdoing his neighbor - making the house more and more opulent and ornate. Some of them look like they have gotten their clues from the MTV show Pimp My Ride.
Remember, the Keys were known for being inclusive. It wasn't about keeping up with the Jones. It used to be said that the person at the next barstool or at the grocery could be a prince or a pauper. And that added to the great character of the Keys. Now, developers advertise properties as exclusive, gated communities as the ideal, and ultra-luxury living as necessary and appropriate for the "Key West lifestyle". Personally, I'm a bit sickened by the whole thing.
The future for much of the Keys looks like an ultra-expensive retirement community. I don't think that a bunch of retirees can live without many services. These require employees.
It is high time for the City of Key West and the County to stop ignoring the problem and start building affordable houses. And until they get their act together, they should be buying up properties for sale, the ones that are somewhat reasonably priced (the market is swamped with properties in Key West), and build an affordable housing pool for workers - much like Aspen Colorado - much like the countless studies and consultants have concluded.
Come on officials! Do something REAL about affordable housing! You are miserably failing us!
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