Affordable housing task force delayed

Council requests more time to review candidates

waxford@keynoter.comAugust 30, 2014 

 

The Marathon City Council put off announcing candidates for a proposed affordable housing task force committee until next week.

The council was expected to name the candidates at its Tuesday meeting, but Councilman Mark Senmartin, who’s spearheading the task force, said he and his colleagues wanted more time to vet the proposed committee members.

“We didn’t get a chance to talk to [candidates] ourselves,” Senmartin said. “It takes a couple of days to absorb the information. We should have our picks by Wednesday.

Community leaders met Monday at the Marathon Government Center for an informal affordable housing summit organized by state Rep. Holly Raschein of Key Largo. 

With a 125-room Hyatt, a 95-room Courtyard by Marriott and an 89-room hotel planned for the Middle Keys, adequate workforce housing could soon be an issue for the area. 

Mayor Dick Ramsay said other potential projects are in the works around Marathon, such as a proposed Knight’s Key development that may need up to 100 employees. 

“We have to work with developers and the county. We have to drag in the Department of Economic Opportunity in Tallahassee,” Ramsay said. “We’re going to put together a task force that’s going to work in conjunction with the county’s task force.” 

Ramsay said he’s going to appoint County Commissioner George Nugent to the board, creating an “instantaneous tie between the county and the city.”   

Similar housing panels have been created at various bureaucratic levels in recent years, with little action taken after reports have been produced. 

 “Whatever governmental force we come up with, it needs to find solutions. If not, this is just an exercise in futility again,” Councilman John Bartus said. “If we don’t figure out some of the solutions, we’re going to lose teachers, firefighters and all those things that make a community.”  

Bartus and Ramsay agree finding solutions to affordable housing will take more than just government entities. 

Nonprofits like the Middle Keys Habitat for Humanity, which has built 17 homes for families since 2006, will be needed as well. Executive Director Chris Todd Young said the homes are built for about $200,000 and are often inhabited by working professionals.

“There’s a need for affordable rentals and homeownership,” Young said. “We need people to live here. It’s highly important.”

The Florida Conflict Resolution Consortium at Florida State University was at Raschein’s Monday meeting. The research group projects Monroe County’s population to decline to 70,901 by 2020 and 66,700 by 2040. FCRC reports Monroe County is the costliest of all 67 Florida counties and amongst the nation. 

 

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