Letter to the Editor

By Craig Cates

Monroe County Commissioner District 1

Keeping control of local resources local should be one of the priorities of county government. That’s why it was so important Monroe County accepted the 300 affordable housing ROGO’s offered to Monroe County from the State of Florida. The shortage of affordable housing in the Keys is one of the top issues affecting our quality of life, our economy, and our future. Since hurricane Irma and before the lack of affordable workforce housing has negatively impacted the Florida Keys. Residents of the Middle and lower Keys have been harder hit because the upper Keys has workers coming out of Homestead and South Miami. Not only the impact on businesses ability to hire workers to provide services the residents demand, but the worst is hearing all the sad stories of residents having to leave their families, friends and their home that they love so much. They are not asking for a handout they are asking for housing that is reasonably priced so they can work, raise their families and be productive members of the community.

I understand the issues associated with the increase in the amount of housing and permanent residents has on our quality of life, safety, and future. Some people are saying that having our workers evacuate early would be impractical because they are the ones that must prepare for the evacuation. The truth is this is 300 potential units, not all the Keys workforce and not everyone that is securing the properties and businesses. The new units, when they’re built, will be stronger, safer, and able to withstand cat five storms reducing the time it takes for residents to prepare and making evacuation for these residents faster and easier. 

To say this undermines the opposition to changing to 30 hour hurricane evacuation from 24 hours and opens the door for 8,860 new ROGO’s and over 20,000 more residents is just not true. This is for a specific purpose and a very small number of new units that will take several years for these homes to be built. New construction must follow and adhere to all controls and standards like building codes, restrictions on where they can be built, impacts on infrastructure, and there must be community input on where larger projects can be built. We know the new quality built units will improve many resident’s quality of life by offering long term housing options for a fair rent.

For the residents that need services to enjoy their quality of life in the Keys, to employers that will have employees to keep their businesses open that they have worked so hard to build, and to the residents that don’t have to move away from the place they love because they can’t afford to live here, this is why I voted to accept the 300 units of workforce housing from the State of Florida. With proper planning and smart use of our resources we will continue to improve traffic flow, public transportation, infrastructure and our planning to make sure our evacuations are safe and organized so the benefits will way outweigh the impacts.