The following was sent to Gov. Rick Scott:
The board of directors for the Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce is advocating for immediate assistance with workforce housing. We are losing our workers in droves because they have nowhere to stay. We in the Lower Florida Keys got hit the hardest during Hurricane Irma. Our economy will not survive if we do not somehow get some temporary housing very soon.
This problem should have been addressed many, many years ago. The state has swept the Sadowski affordable-housing fund for years, never paying back what it borrowed, even when the budget would have allowed that. The state Legislature must provide funding, starting right now, to address the crisis we are experiencing.
The term “affordable housing” is a joke here in the Keys. $2,500 per month for a two bedroom home is not affordable for the majority of our workforce. We need layers of housing: Dormitory-style rooms for those in our service industry, small apartments for our families and multi-unit condos for our middle-management workers. There is land here on which to build. The former road prison property on Big Pine Key is perfect; much of the infrastructure is already in place. There are large parcels on nearby islands that could also be utilized.
It is time — far past time — for the state of Florida to step up and help Monroe County fix the housing crisis in the Florida Keys. It will not be easy, it will not happen overnight, but we must begin if there is ever to be decent housing for our area workforce.
Cathy Hoffman, president, board of directors, Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce, Big Pine Key