Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Key West Must Get Serious About Affordable Housing

This week, the Key West City Commission will debate permitting dormitory-style housing for workers. This is a lame attempt at making a dent in the affordable housing problem on the island. It seems that the city has little interest in making its workforce a permanent part of the community. In the past, Key West was made up of its workers - making it a vibrant community.

Basically, the city of Key West needs to look at other communities that face a similar situation. The best example may be Aspen Colorado.

Dormitories may be useful for service industries and seasonal workers. But if you want professionals (including nurses, teachers, administrators, captains, and other middle income workers) you will need to do much more.
The city continues to do little to solve this problem. Most notably, Key West commissioners have largely ignored the recommendations of experts and committees who have studied the problem.
With a growing worker shortage, Key West businesses (and the city itself) are on a disaster course. The city seems incapable of solving their serious dilemma. There is an exodus of employees in the Keys, and if this continues, employers will find it more and more difficult to operate and prosper.

What should be done?
  • The city and county need to purchase and build housing for the working class. This is going to be very expensive. However, doing nothing will end up costing far more - namely the Key West economy.
  • This property should remain designated for affordable housing - in perpetuity. Stop screwing around with deed restrictions that expire! (We have already seen too many past efforts at affordable housing end up on the open market prices that only speculators and the rich can then afford.)
  • Workers can purchase the property from the city, and in the future may only sell the property back to the city.

Dormitories sound like a sad excuse for an affordable housing solution. It sends a message that Key West doesn't care very much about making skilled workers a real part of the community. Sticking them in what sounds to me like a worker prison is not going to keep them in town.

Today, most of the island has been bought up by the rich and those with enormous credit, squeezing out anyone with less. Funny, only the rich seem to think the place has improved, as social cliques start to look more and more like those found in places like Greenwich, Connecticut.

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