by Joseph Hopp, Big Pine Key resident…….
HOTELS, HOTELS, HOTELS
For years the hospitality industry has been lobbying against any vacation rentals but their own; the very people who invited the hotels into the Keys; hotels that, from mile marker to mile marker charge $200 to $1,200 a night year round. They lobbied against one of the first B & B’s on the islands, I know personally because my parents had one of the very early Bed & Breakfasts in the Florida Keys. The properties my parents bought were already licensed hotels. I remember all the talk of the county trying to take my parents hotel license. The B & B thing was a threat to the Golden Goose.. They didn’t understand B & B, were afraid of where it could lead and didn’t want to share. They lobbied and fear-mongered about the nightmares of weekly rentals. You see homeowners in the Keys are not permitted to rent weekly. Oh I think there is a clause that says you can rent weekly but only once a month, One rental a month, Period!! So there we have the $200 to $1,200 dollar a night hotel lobby fighting against homeowners profiting from the ability to rent weekly. There are a lot of working retired in the Keys that would love to be the totally retired. That weekly rental could be the difference between #30 hours a week at the Home Depot or traveling the United States in an RV. Sounds good to me.
I can not confirm but I have been told that the Air B & B network in Monroe County has been savagely attacked by business and lapdog government. It is my understanding that a B & B need not even rent a single room for a single night to be sited by the goon squad. They only need to find that you advertised for the cease and desist notice and summons to be issued.
The truth is that the entire North East Coast from Maine to the outer banks of North Carolina have been renting beach properties weekly for 75 years. Everybody that wants to rent can do so. They make money. Others choose not to rent at all. In my opinion I would much rather be permitted to do something with the choice not to participate than be told I can do nothing at all. Those that think there will be the nightmare group rentals, noise and disruption at the neighbors house are wrong. We up north have been doing it a long time. Getting good at renting to weekly tourists is easy; written do’s and don’ts and Cans and Cant’s are necessary but simple. Renting weekly is simple, fun, profitable and tends to elevate property values. That brings me to my hometown of Manasquan NJ. A beach area that is “smack Dab” in the middle of Philadelphia and the Big Apple. People flock to our NJ beach towns by the millions. A Jersey Shore tourist bonanza and my hometown and surrounding towns are 95% homeowner weekly rentals and 5% hotel rooms. We all rent weekly and love it. Another interesting fact about the Jersey Shore is that the towns that did invite large numbers of hotels are now the least desirable coastal towns in NJ. Wildwood, Sea Side Park and Atlantic City are examples. Bad decisions were made by weak politicians. The hotels eventually brought in UN-screened winter rentals for cash flow reasons and local newspapers went from PTA meetings and High School Sports to a meth lab bust or brothel uncovered. These are painful examples, not all are so bad. One undeniable indisputable fact common among all tourist towns is the Golden Goose. The Goose can be shared but ya gotta fight for it and later fight to keep it.
RUN THEM OUT OF TOWN AND MAKE MONEY IN THE WAKE
I wanna talk abut the Avenues of Big Pine Key. The North East Gulf side of the Island was essentially ground zero for the worst of Hurricane Irma. A bit of a hybrid with residences made up largely of “land owned trailer inhabited dwellings. The condition put upon this area by local government basically says “when a resident decides to replace their mobile home they must do so with a house.”
My friend paid $80,000 for a lot with a trailer just last year. Her intention is to, one day, replace the tailor with a home of her own in the Fabulous Florida Keys. Her and roughly 500 of her neighbors have the same dream. Saving and planning for the day that they could afford to build that home. Well here lies the problem. That day happened to them two weeks ago and and few are ready for it. All of these land owning residents must now build that home. Build that home now, or leave.
THE “STUDIO APPARTMENTS” AND “IN LAW SUITES” VACANT VACANT VACANT
Now I am gonna move on to the lobby against another type of rental here in the Florida Keys. A rental practice common and completely acceptable across the country. I am referring to the “IN LAW SUITE, OR STUDIO APPARTMENT. Oh the attack dogs have been squashing the efforts of local homeowners making a buck and providing housing for the working poor of our islands for decades.
People are either frightened into leaving the studio empty or forced underground with cash only rental income. They pit neighbors against neighbor instigating one to tell on another. They say things like “why should they be able to make money from a studio apartment when you don’t have one.” At the same time they truck and bus in labor from Homestead. Many of us are aware that a large percentage of Winn Dixie employees in Big Pine Key travel four hours a day from the mainland to clock in at around $10 an hour. The lobby is so strong, the oppression so draconian, that the idea of an independent rental population must be squashed. They don’t want you to see a single rental check. They want the thought removed from your head.
YOU FIND YOUR FRIENDS AND YOUR ENEMIES WHEN TIMES GET TOUGH
So now we have had Irma. The hotels of South Florida have been “INVISABLE”. Throughout the state hotels have been coming up to the plate and taking evacuees and the homeless of Irma. Well last time I looked the entire metropolitan area of Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties were in hiding. Two hotels on the FEMA list. I called them both. The first was booked and not taking any more FEMA people and the second told me that the $129 FEMA reimbursed them was insufficient and you would have to cough up another fifty bucks. This is a complete and Utter disgrace. I asked Marco Rubio why this was happening. He was taken a bit off guard but recovered and responded with two reasons/excuses. The first was a legitimate fact, not an excuse, the fact that each hotel and hotel chain can make it’s own decisions. I interpreted that as basically saying “we can’t make them do it” I was OK with that comment. Then however he drifted into saying “well in South Florida we are looking toward our peak season” inferring occupancy issues. Let me tell you how I wanted to respond to that. I had to bite my lip. I wanted to say “PEAK SEASON? LOOKING AT PEAK SEASON? WITH WHAT MARCO BINOCULARES? I held my tongue out of respect and humility. Not every day you get a chance to talk to a prominent US senator and front running presidential candidate. It is friggen September. Everybody knows it is the slowest time of year. The only thing even remotely on the horizon for South Florida is Fantasy Fest and there are no rooms occupied for that until late October. Wanna know about hotels that take FEMA people? I know about one because I stayed in it. I stayed in the Holiday Inn off LPGA Blvd in Dayton Beach. Forced to travel 8 hours from my home in Big Pine Key. Hey we all have to do something to get a roof over our heads. Well I discussed the FEMA issue with the hotel manager. We agreed that South Florida hotels are a disgrace and should be ashamed of themselves. We both knew they have tens of thousands of vacant rooms down in South Florida. He told me point blank that due to this storm his Holiday Inn is having the best September on record. Good for them. They stepped up to the plate, they took in the poor, they accepted our dogs, cats, parrots and other exotic creatures. Let they tell you that they took in some pretty exotic homosapian’s no questions asked. There were fraudsters for sure, and they got the boot quick. Nobody has time for the abuses that come with chaos. One note on that I have is “if your gonna jump on the guy trying to make a few bucks off a generator or chainsaw you better jump on the Fat Cats with MORE VEROSITY. So why in the hell is the South Florida Hotel Industry and Chamber of Commerce standing by, watching and doing nothing to help?
Homeless Irma victims everywhere, no trailers coming, and ridiculous laws prohibiting neighbor from renting to neighbor. Thousands of “studio Apartments available for Irma homeless, apartments right on the islands where these victims need to be. Well we can’t legally rent them and FEMA money won’t pay for them. The same FEMA money, $129/night available to hotels and not a single hotel within six or eight driving hours taking it. Certainly no hotels within a distance where a person could get to his or her job. You can’t commute from Daytona. Could any of you reading this article travel back and forth 8 hours each way to Daytona or Orlando to oversea the rebuild effort of your home.
CUT ALL THE TAPE. CUT THE RED TAPE THE WHITE TAPE AND THE BLUE
What needs to be done immediately? FEMA and other relief agencies need to accept local accommodations for reimbursement. Liability my ass. These homes all have CO’s. The answer I got from FEMA is that there is potential liability. That is BULL SHIT. Have the wandering confused displaced local couple sign a freak-en waver. A window, a door and a waver. Given the choice do you think a young mother sleeping in a tent next to her splintered trailer gives a damn about liability. Do you really think it is better for her and her two kids to be on the streets, displaced to North Florida and enrolling in a new school with no idea how long before they can return home or put up on by FEMA for half the money in the neighborhood in which they live? She would jump at the chance buy your not giving it to them. How about the proud semi-retired older couple who own that lot that use to have a trailer on it. Think they might like a few creature comforts. Think they may sign up locally if given the chance to replace food lines and hot tents with a cool room, running water, an refrigerator and a stove?
I am gonna end now with my take on the whole thing. THESE PEOPLE WANT TO STAY!!! THEY WANT TO REBUILD. THEY WANT HELP, NATURALLY. BUT HELP COMES IN MANY FORMS. GRANTS SURE. MANY OF THESE PEOPLE OWN PROPERTY, THEY HAVE CREDIT. THEY WOULD CERTAINLY TAKE A LOW INTEREST LOAN. DON’T CHASE THESE PEOPLE OUT OF THE KEYS. DON’T FORCE THE PEOPLE OF THE BIG PINE KEY AVENUES OFF THE ISLANDS. ALL OF YOU WHO THINK, IF I CAN’T GET IT WHY SHOULD THEY. MAY I REMIND YOU THAT THE FAILED, INSOLVENT LARGE BANKS OF THIS COUNTRY GOT EIGHT HUNDRED BILLION FROM THE TAXPAYERS WHICH THEY SWEAR THEY PAID BACK. THEY DIDN’T, THAT IS A LIE. IF YOU TOOK THE NET INCOME FROM ALL OF THEM FROM THEIR BEST YEARS, YA KNOW THE SUBPRIME BONANZA YEARS, IT WOULD NOT AMOUNT TO EIGHT HUNDRED BILLION. THEY ACTUALLY GOT THIRTY TRILION DOLLARS FROM THE FEDERAL RESERVE, I MEAN THE “FEDERAL NO RESERVE.” TWENTY FIVE TRILION. YEARS OF TOTAL GNP GIVEN TO THEM. YA KNOW WHAT THE TERMS OF THOSE SHELL GAME LOANS ARE? MY GUESS IS THAT THEY ARE VIRTUALLY NON EXISTANT. THE HOMELESS POOR ON THE CORNER OF SOMBRERO ROAD HAVE A BETTER BALANCE SHEET THAT THE PENNYLESS EXECUTIVES EVER WILL. OOPS I GOT OFF TRACK. A TOPIC FOR ANOTHER DAY. BUT THE COMPARISONS NEED TO BE MADE.
GET THINGS RIGHT IN THE FLORIDA KEYS DONALD. THE DISASTER RESPONCE HAS BEEN SUPPERB. CERTAINLY THE BEST, STREAMLINED DISASTER RESPONCE BY GOVERNMENT IS UNITED STATED HISTORY. LIKE TRUMP OR NOT THE GUY KNOWS HOW TO WORK. PLEASE DON’T LET THE LOCAL GOONS AND SPECIAL INTEREST SCREW IT UP.