Florida Local News, Politics, Sports & Business

COULD THE KEYS SPEND TOURISM MONEY ON WORKFORCE HOUSING?


A 52-unit reasonably priced housing complicated on thirty ninth Road in Marathon is only one piece of the housing puzzle within the metropolis. ALEX RICKERT/Keys Weekly

Monroe County commissioners could make all of the plans and guarantees they need to alleviate the affordability disaster within the Florida Keys, because the rental market solely continues to rise and staff battle to remain.

However the five-member panel doesn’t have the authority to seize simply any funds line and change it to a workforce housing fund.

The newest thought: spend $25 million in surplus revenue the Monroe County Vacationer Growth Council raked in between 2020-2022 to deal with staff within the service and hospitality industries.

“We may actually make a distinction and construct some workforce housing,” stated County Commissioner Michelle Lincoln, of Marathon. 

Lincoln believes it’s the best transfer for the Keys. 

“We’re not taking cash out of the funds for promoting,” Lincoln stated. “And it’s not asking for any more cash. We’re not asking to extend a penny gross sales tax.”

The agenda for Wednesday’s Board of County Commissioners assembly, scheduled to start out at 9 a.m. on the Marathon Authorities Heart, as soon as once more included the TDC surplus. 

The fee was set to take a vote on whether or not to foyer state lawmakers to craft a means for Monroe to make use of the excess for one thing that’s not on the books. 

“We’re asking the state if we may use that to fund workforce housing that particularly advantages folks within the service and hospitality industries,” Lincoln stated. 

Lengthy-term leases within the Keys have grow to be more durable to search out, not to mention afford on common native wages. 

Fair market rents for 2024 decided by the U.S. Division of Housing and City Growth for Monroe County are $1,556 for a studio, $1,730 for a one-bedroom condo and $2,139 for a two-bedroom. 

However in actuality, a studio condo in Key West can simply run greater than $2,000 monthly and a 646-square-foot one-bedroom at Ocean Stroll flats was beginning at $2,781 monthly at press time, whereas a room in a two-bedroom condo, with a shared rest room, on Duval Road was listed for $1,500 on Craigslist. 

Lincoln is on the Florida Affiliation of Counties, which she stated will seemingly take a vote on the TDC tax surplus spending choice thought in November. 

Florida regulation restricts how counties spend the TDC tax cash. Elected officers can’t simply faucet into it for any mission, similar to rental housing designed to stay to truthful market charges or reserved for folks with decrease than common incomes. 

“We’ve got to comply with the state statute language because it’s written,” TDC director Stacey Mitchell advised the Keys Weekly on Oct. 17. 

The Keys scored that bonus $25 million from unprecedented tourism numbers for fiscal years ending in 2021 and 2022. It’s from the overall four-cent “mattress tax” collected on each greenback spent at motels and lodging institutions throughout the 120-mile island chain.

The surplus in TDC tax collections ran far over its forecasted funds as a result of equally unprecedented variety of vacationers who poured into the Keys when the COVID-19 pandemic prompted different states, cities and international locations to implement shutdowns as a part of security measures. 

Florida was one of many few high vacation spot spots that remained open throughout a protracted stretch of the primary 18 months of the pandemic. 

“We had zero competitors,” Mitchell stated. 

The TDC, an advisory committee for the county fee, makes use of mattress tax revenues to promote the Keys, promote the biggest occasions and for giant constructing initiatives that increase tourism. 

Commissioners have primarily frozen the road merchandise for particular public amenities capital initiatives.

“They voted to defer accepting purposes for using these surplus funds till after the 2024 legislative session,” Mitchell stated. 

On the Oct. 18 assembly, the agenda merchandise that listed the 2024 legislative priorities included the TDC surplus thought.

In a report by Lisa Tennyson, the county director of legislative affairs, 10 main Keys points made the precedence listing, together with, “Assist laws to increase the eligible makes use of for Vacationer Growth Tax-generated funds to incorporate reasonably priced/workforce housing for tourism sectors’ staff.”

It’s tagged as “tourism workforce housing,” within the report. 

“We’re unsure if your entire state’s going to be behind us,” Lincoln stated. “We’re undoubtedly prepared to face alone on this one.”

Many pressing targets in 2024

The TDC surplus is one in all three legislative priorities associated to the housing disaster that county workers has compiled, together with supporting native governments’ efforts to alleviate housing prices.

The report recommends the county assist laws to allow native governments to supply property tax relief for landlords who “voluntarily lease affordably.”

A property tax break may save long-term leases from turning into trip leases.

However Monroe County’s high precedence stays environmental safety, specifically to safe $25 million by the Florida Keys Stewardship Act: $20 million for water high quality initiatives and $5 million for land acquisition. 

“The county makes use of its share of Stewardship funding for the canal restoration program,” based on the workers report. 

The precedence listing additionally consists of funding for elevating roads, addressing marine points similar to mooring fields and eradicating derelict vessels, and defending the Charge of Development Ordinance from potential state preemption. 

Most of Monroe’s legislative targets are incremental “and centered on points which are constructed upon over a number of classes, similar to our water high quality and land acquisition wants, the significance of wind insurance coverage affordability, and safety of grandfathered trip rental rules,” the report states.

A longshot: lowering wind insurance coverage prices

The hovering value of wind insurance coverage is one other piece of the Keyswide affordability disaster. Wind and flood insurance coverage prices are a perennial difficulty however county workers says this 12 months there’s much more urgency.

Most wind insurance coverage insurance policies within the Keys are by the state-backed Residents Property Insurance coverage Firm, referred to as the insurer of final resort. 

“Due to the spiraling property insurance coverage disaster, Residents’ coverage numbers have soared previous $1.4 million as a result of it’s the default insurer for coverage holders from the non-public sector insurance coverage corporations which have failed or left the state,” the report says. 

“Lawmakers proceed to stress Residents to shed insurance policies by forcing insureds into take-out corporations with greater premiums, and by limiting eligibility,” based on the report. “Preserving reasonably priced wind insurance coverage requires common advocacy with Residents, legislators, and the Workplace of Insurance coverage Regulation to oppose efforts to extend premiums, remove the cap on annual will increase, scale back protection, and scale back eligibility. 

“To make issues worse, latest state laws now requires flood insurance coverage to be carried by all Residents’ coverage holders – even for houses not in danger for flood,” based on the report.

Florida lawmakers handed important insurance coverage laws this previous 12 months and county workers says it’s unlikely they’ll revisit the problem in any kind of complete means.

“Nonetheless, we’ll work with our delegation and with Monroe’s insurance coverage advocacy group, FIRM (Honest Insurance coverage Charges in Monroe), to press for some reforms which will assist to cut back prices,” the report says.

The 2024 Florida Legislature’s session begins Jan. 9 and ends March 8. 

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