October 26, 2020
Last Stand has been asked to provide a “solution” to the affordable housing situation in the Keys. Given that Last Stand is a volunteer organization, we have neither the resources nor the ability to dictate housing policy in the Keys. Because the Keys are an expensive place to relocate or retire, one needs the financial resources to do so and should not count on others to subsidize one’s chosen lifestyle. However, the workforce in the Keys is another story.
As an organization, we look to and expect employers to provide adequate compensation, housing subsidies, or the housing itself. We also look to local government to encourage businesses to do so and, when possible, to remove unnecessary roadblocks.
Last Stand has supported and will continue to support affordable housing and workforce housing in the Florida Keys when a proposed new development meets appropriate criteria that balances the impacts of new construction with neighbors’ quality of life and the environment. A 1990s report confirmed the Florida Keys had already exceeded the quantity of structures that were sustainable, given the land available. For that reason, we do not support a goal of building our way out of the workforce housing crisis. We encourage preservation of existing workforce housing, minimizing the use of market rate housing for vacation rental, and conversion of existing housing to appropriate affordability or workforce restrictions.
- New construction should be close to employment centers. Last Stand will oppose projects that create large numbers of units in rural areas of the Keys. The level of service on U.S. 1 is already substandard, so we do not encourage developments that will add traffic.
- Last Stand strongly opposes accepting and allocating new ROGO building rights for units that are not included in hurricane evacuation models, under the assumption they will be vacated earlier than “other permanent residents.” We will not agree to compromise the safety of all choosing to evacuate. Our basis for this has been demonstrated again during the 2020 hurricane season by storms that continue to rapidly intensify into major hurricanes. There will not always be 48 hours’ notice for a rapidly-intensifying storm headed for Key West and Monroe County.
- Affordability is a key consideration as Last Stand reviews new projects. Establishing maximum rents using the HUD Median County incomes leaves salaried employees and wage earners in the workforce struggling to pay Median rents and unable to pay higher rents. Having lower income units may help our board reach consensus to support projects that do not meet other criteria.
- For good reasons, Monroe County and Key West codes define allowable unit density, building set back, maximum coverage, floor area ratio and parking. Last Stand generally will oppose projects that require variances from these code provisions but will review variance requests specific to a project and act on the consensus of our board. Increased height and/or density should only apply to appropriately-located workforce housing projects.
- Height variances for habitable and non-habitable space generally will be opposed by Last Stand. Specifics of the project such as lower rents, smaller units, and locations that minimize vehicle ownership may allow for exceptions, such as the endorsement of the Key West referendum for a height variance on the College Road property owned by the city.
Last Stand is not in the position to craft a solution to the affordable housing issue. We look to business and government to do so. We expect existing codes to be enforced. We will help to formulate policies that will encourage the creation of workforce housing. We will continue to monitor and speak up against projects that do not meet the environmental and quality-of-life goals that Last Stand champions.
Last Stand Board of Directors