Keys children should be our priority. It’s cliche, but the holidays are truly a time for giving. But it’s certainly not just about giving gifts; it is as much or more about giving time and support for our community and those that comprise it. We have a sustainability issue in the Florida Keys. Efforts in Monroe County to control rents, commit to more affordable housing and re-examine building height limitations have been insufficient. Marathon is approving a lot of new residential projects but we suspect the rents will be out of reach for many. The number of permits allocated to build new affordable-housing units in the Florida Keys could run low in the near future because developers want to focus on market-rate housing. Why not? There’s more money to be made that way. In addition, rules that make building homes for “workforce” or low-income residents has significantly cut the remaining permits available, according to Monroe County staff. Recently, Lower Keys residents filed objections over a proposed affordable-housing development on Summerland Key — 6.5 acres of buildable land for a community of 163 to 180 units described as “deed-restricted affordable housing.” In Marathon, an affordable housing project proposed by Sarasota company WOB Beneficial Development was denied by the Marathon Planning Commission and City Council because of limited access to the property at mile marker 53 oceanside. Twice WOB has approached the Planning Commission and City Council and been denied. Conversely, a development on 48th Street bayside in Marathon that will potentially be called Casa De Palmas has been approved. Developer Keys Affordable Development was afforded the rights for the 55 units by Monroe County, but these are all the county currently has to grant. Our city and county leaders need to consistently and vigorously act to tackle this predicament. We hear support for the issue but often don’t see an equal part commitment to solving it. It’s a complex problem. There are many moving parts and no single silver bullet or magic wand will remedy this problem. And whether you live here full or part time, these statistics cannot be ignored: ALICE is an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed households that earn more than the poverty level but less than the basic cost of living for the county. Forty-eight percent of Monroe County households are at ALICE level or below (12 percent are poverty level and 36 percent are ALICE). Three out of every five children in the Florida Keys live in an ALICE household. These families are essentially working poor without the ability to financially contend with a medical crisis, a major car repair or any situation that upsets their bare-necessity existence. Crisis situations for the financially insecure impact their quality of life and the ability to prosper, particularly for children. These severe household disruptions contribute to learning challenges among these children, plus emotional and behavioral issues, not to mention the stress experienced by their parents. The ALICE population is an important segment of our community. These residents fuel the engine that drives the Keys — tourism. These are the housekeepers, the maintenance folks, the cooks, servers and bartenders in our restaurants, the retail help. Countless workers travel by bus from Homestead daily to fill those positions as far south as Marathon because the jobs are available here but the housing is not. On top of that, they return to the mainland with their earnings and spend it on the mainland, not at Keys shops and stores. So that’s not helping our community. In the end, it’s all about cause and effect. Apartment rentals in Key West regularly exceed $2,400 a month. Keyswide, rentals commonly exceed $1,500 monthly. In many cases, even for a management-level employee or a dual income family in Monroe, this can represent 50 percent or more of income. Now you understand why not only ALICE families, but many others, are feeling the effects of such steep housing rates. Our high cost of living also makes filling jobs extremely challenging. Dozens and dozens of businesses are either giving up or operating with less, which impacts service and quality. While wages, in many cases, are not trending upward fast enough to keep pace with the cost of living, it wouldn’t take that much for current wages to support our cost of living if the latter wasn’t spiraling out of control. In this social media, me-me-me world, it’s intoxicating to shine the light on oneself. But how about we turn the camera lens around and look at those in the community that surround us and require our attention? How about redirecting some of that inward-pointing energy toward shoring up the one driver in our community that threatens to unseat us long-term? We can stem the erosion that’s taking place in our community, particularly as it affects our at-risk population, if we just commit the energy and focus to it. Let’s do it for the kids.