KEY LARGO, FL – At the Monroe County Board of County Commissioners meeting Dec. 14 in Key Largo, the City of Marathon requested that the County transfer 218 of its affordable allocation units to the municipality for four shovel-ready projects and to deed restrict 34 existing market rate units at eight locations to affordable units.
After a lively discussion, the Commission voted to transfer 135 affordable allocation units for two of the Marathon projects (HTG Crystal Cove Resort and Keys Affordable Development III). Both developers are applying for federal low income housing tax credit (LIHTC) and have a Jan. 6 deadline to receive the affordable allocations.
The Commission approved transferring 34 affordable housing allocations to the City of Marathon for the purpose of deed restricting 34 market rate units to affordable units. The approval came with a condition: at least half of those 34 market rate units that now would be available for sale must be used in unincorporated Monroe County (from the southern Islamorada border to Stock Island).
The Commission also approved reserving for one year 96 of its affordable allocation units for the developer of a project on Rockland Key (Rockland Operations) in unincorporated Monroe County who also is applying for the same federal tax breaks with the Jan. 6 deadline.
These projects include a variety of very low (50 percent of median income), low (80 percent), median (100 percent) and moderate (120 percent) units.
The Commission, in 3-2 votes, did not approve transferring another 83 of the County’s affordable allocations to Marathon for two other projects (Seward Properties Redevelopment and the City of Marathon). These projects are not applying for federal tax breaks and thus do not have the Jan. 6 deadline to meet.
While the dissenting commissioners – Heather Carruthers, Sylvia Murphy and Danny Kolhage – all thought the projects were worthwhile, they were concerned about giving away these allocations for three major reasons:
- Potential liability to the County for takings cases when the remaining state-limited rate of growth ordinance (ROGO) units of the County run out in 2023;
- The County would have a negative 47 units of affordable allocations if all 14 affordable housing projects currently in the pipeline in the County go forward. This negative balance includes the 82 allocation units Marathon returned to the County for projects that were not granted tax credit funding; and
- They want to first investigate the possibility of receiving some of the 200-plus unused affordable housing allocations belonging to the City of Key West for the Rockland Key project that would benefit Key West’s workforce housing needs. (Monroe County Mayor George Neugent said he has planned to meet with Key West Mayor Craig Cates to discuss this issue).
The two projects that were not approved at the December meeting can be presented to the Commission again at a future meeting.
There are now so many affordable housing projects in the works largely because the Monroe County Board of County Commissioners adopted the new Comprehensive Plan in April that took a proactive step by making all of its approximately 700 remaining affordable allocation units available – instead of those units being spread out for distribution over years as is the case with market rate units.
This immediate availability of the hundreds of affordable allocation units – along with a strong economy, low interest rates and lenders willing to finance such projects – had led to the “stars aligning” and resulting in the flurry of projects, Realtor Brian Schmitt told the Commissioners.