Last Stand strongly opposes the award of up to 1,300 additional workforce housing allocations for the Florida Keys because the condition that makes the Keys Workforce Housing Initiative appear safe is both unrealistic and unenforceable.  The Keys Workforce Housing Initiative is conditioned on a commitment that developers of new construction will evacuate renters at the 48-hour window of evacuation.

The initiative is unrealistic because it is not always possible to issue hurricane warnings even 48 hours in advance of tropical storm force winds. In 2017 with Hurricane Harvey, the Texas coast experienced sustained tropical storm force winds 32 hours after the initial hurricane warning was issued at 4:00 AM.  Unlike our most recent experience with Hurricane Irma, with more than five days of warning, the Keys will not always have the luxury of planning for an orderly evacuation according to the optimal timeline.

The initiative is unenforceable because landlords cannot compel their tenants to leave the county in the mandated early evacuation window. During the advance preparation for a storm, it is not practical for law enforcement or emergency management officials to monitor compliance with any commitment to evacuate from workforce housing sites spread throughout the county. The notion that occupants of the new workforce housing enabled by these additional ROGOs will be able to tell their employers that they cannot participate in the employer’s hurricane preparation because they have to evacuate early is fallacious. The notion that our lowest-paid workers will have the resources to evacuate early and often is fallacious. Safety of residents leaving within the 24-hour window would be severely compromised when vehicles from proposed new workforce housing allocations add to the traffic flow at the last minute.

Last Stand is urging local elected officials to reject the Governor’s offer of additional ROGOs and focus on securing the funding that is needed to replace workforce housing destroyed by Hurricane Irma in a way that does not compromise the safety of all Florida Keys residents.

Last Stand is extremely disappointed that Wes Maul, Director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management supports the initiative’s safety “while allowing critical economic development activities to continue.” A primary emphasis of the Governor’s press release is increasing economic growth in the Florida Keys. Last Stand has consistently advocated that the Florida Keys are already built beyond the carrying capacity of the upland area. It is time for our elected officials to regard success as sustaining our Florida Keys economy, not expanding it beyond current levels.

On August 29, 2017, following Hurricane Harvey, Last Stand wrote DEO Director Cissy Proctor. The positions from that letter, which are reproduced below, support our strong objections to the Keys Workforce Housing Initiative.

“Last Stand supports the conclusions of the Statewide Regional Emergency Evacuation Study that relies upon hard data to predict the time required to evacuate all Monroe County residents. We stand firm against changing any assumptions in this modeling process to eliminate additional categories of people using roads to evacuate during an emergency. Our primary concern is that groups already excluded, including all non-resident tourists, the military and people living in mobile homes or on boats, may not be able to join the earlier evacuation stream and endanger the ability of permanent residents to get out before tropical storm force winds arrive. The way that Hurricane Harvey rapidly intensified from a 4:00AM warning to landfall 32 hours later with Category 4 winds demonstrates that Monroe County may not have the luxury of 48 hours notice that a major storm will threaten the Florida Keys.

The Florida Keys are a great place to live and vacation. Our tourism economy and demand for seasonally occupied residences have strained the supply of affordable housing. We encourage you to work with our local leaders and businesses to develop solutions to workforce housing issues that do not require endangering the safety of all residents when faced with an evacuation order. We strongly oppose any proposal that would require the residents of affordable housing to evacuate before the 24 hour mark as increasing the danger for all who choose to evacuate that they may not be able to do so safely. Residents in affordable workforce housing are just as likely as any resident to decide to obey an order to evacuate. However, they are the least likely to be able to miss a work day before driving out of the Keys and the most likely to be employed to make businesses and seasonally occupied homes ready to face a storm. We are urging you not to issue additional building allocations beyond those already planned. In our view the Keys have already been built beyond the capacity of the infrastructure and environment, more allocations will certainly put Monroe County beyond the tipping point.”