The shortage of affordable housing throughout the Florida Keys is nothing new. It was a problem long before Hurricane Irma came along in September and exacerbated the issue, but a Middle Keys church is working on its own solution.
St. Columba Episcopal Church on 52nd Street near mile marker 50 bayside is in the process of buying a 16-unit apartment building that will potentially house those in need at a “doable” monthly rate, according to Rev. Canon Debra Maconaughey.
“We understand there is a need for housing for people that live here and we are negotiating for a property in Marathon,” she said, adding it will be professionally renovated if all goes as planned.
She did not give the address of the apartment building or provide a time line for when renovations will be done, but said monthly rent amounts will be calculated based on income.
“It’s a hybrid type of program, so it’s a rental but it’s also a co-op,” she said. “We know from people in our parish and community that people are really struggling, and we want to help.”
St. Columba has already been helping people with their housing situations since the Sept. 10 hurricane. It wasn’t the storm that set the apartment building purchase in motion, but a combination of events from before and after.
Three weeks after the storm, the church bought 22 RV trailers and put 10 of them on the church property. The other 12 were stationed from Islamorada to Key West.
“It’s a temporary disaster recovery site for people who had different reasons why they couldn’t find other housing while fixing up their homes,” Maconaughey said, adding about 200 people have transitioned in and out of the trailers for a few months at a time while finding other arrangements.
“We are flexible on that but we try to give people a chance to get their feet on the ground, then we network with our people to get them into a permanent place,” she said. “We’re trying to support the community and have a relationship with it.”
Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219