Ramrod Key’s “stairway to heaven” property, now in public ownership, may be used as one of three Lower Keys sites for prototype versions of “tiny homes.”
Monroe County commissioners authorized staff to pursue money to build “pretty much the most affordable housing we can find,” in the words of Assistant County Administrator Christine Hurley at last Wednesday’s meeting in Key West.
In addition to the West Indies Drive property on Ramrod, long known for an uncompleted house that featured a tall stairway leading to empty sky, commissioners approved using land next to the Cudjoe Key fire station and Monroe County Sheriff’s Office substation, and behind the Big Coppitt Key fire station.
To help residents who lost housing to Sept. 10’s Hurricane Irma, the county plans to solicit proposals for small, affordable homes that can serve as demonstration projects.
Residents could tour the prototype homes to see if the models might meet their needs. “We want residents to have some choice,” Commissioner Heather Carruthers said. “The greatest need is in the Lower Keys.”
Afterward, the county-owned houses could be rented to government workers.
Two county-owned properties in Key Largo, on Jenny Lane off the mile marker 102 oceanside and a large lot near the Key Largo Community Park that could accommodate several affordable-housing units, were not approved.
Three commissioners said they were “barraged” by Key Largo residents who oppose using the sites. “An uprising,” described Mayor David Rice. “They said, ‘We don’t want it and we don’t need it.’ ”
Commissioner Sylvia Murphy, who represents the Upper Keys, called the protests “foolishness.”
“Funding for [Lower Keys prototype] construction has not been identified but the county will begin soliciting sources of funding, including from charitable foundations,” county information officer Cammy Clark said in a statement. “Different types of tiny homes will be built so that people can have a choice and see what type might work best for a person’s budget.”
Replacement homes, whether built by the county or private owners, likely must be elevated above flood-plain levels, which will increase costs.
In other storm-related housing issues, the county board approved extending permits for use of emergency travel-trailer housing for 180 days. Units parked in residential areas may have to show proof that progress is being made on their damaged homes.
Commissioners also agreed to seek a meeting with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials to see if federally owned trailers now occupied can remain in the Florida Keys after June 1. As it stands, rules require the FEMA trailers to be moved out of Monroe County once the 2018 hurricane season begins in three months.
Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206