I am a Peary Court resident and attended your Housing First PAC meeting on Feb 4th. After hearing you speak, there is no doubt that you care passionately for city workers. The following are just a few of my thoughts as the meeting progressed.
There are often unintended consequences of any project. I know that you personally did not intend to scare and/or alienate families in Peary Court; unfortunately you did.
(1) If the referendum passes and the city purchases Peary Court – You made it clear that those who do not qualify as a Key West worker will be evicted in accordance with our leases, obviously most will be gone in 6 months; those on a month to month lease will get 30 days notice. I kept thinking that this sure seems like discrimination (perhaps even a federal civil rights violation) as you plan to evict one group of diversified families to make room for another group. Then I thought, perhaps you all do not know that personal legal protection afforded to PAC members (government officials too) does not apply to discrimination or civil rights violations.
(2) If the referendum fails – You stressed that if it fails and I quote from your handout “all 157 families who now call Peary Court home may be subject to eviction or big rent increases.” I listened to resident’s comments and questions, looked at their faces and into their eyes, and then listened to some of them after we got back home to Peary Court; you now have a lot of scared residents.
Throughout the meeting, I kept asking myself “why.” Why would city leaders put Key West at risk? I have seen so many American cities and states cut services and lay off workers because they took on projects that seemed the right thing to do and reasonable at the time. Then I started thinking about all the economic issues that could impact your ability to pay for your initiative including: (a) our shrinking economy and possible recession, (b) another housing bubble, (c) insurance costs, (d) possible class action or federal lawsuits concerning public versus free enterprise and/or discrimination, and (e) the “fear factor” of the Zika virus.
You said that part of the financing was to get $10,000,000 from Monroe County, funds collected from “bed tax” and held in reserve. I said to myself, no, no, no. These funds by Florida law are to be used for tourist development.* These funds pay for the commercials we see on TV, the ones that advertise “the Florida Keys and Key West.” Then I thought about the Zika virus again and how we might need all hands on deck and all the money we can get our hands on to make sure that tourists around the world know that the Florida Keys and Key West are safe.
Finally, I keep saying to myself that there just has to be a better way to do this. So, I have three very specific and comprehensive ideas that will allow you to provide similar or better worker housing at significantly lower cost and with no risk to Key West. I am more than willing to meet with you at your convenience either in person or by phone to discuss my ideas. Just let me know.
Randy Gunter, Ph.D.
[*Note from the Editor: Use of some of the bed tax funds [those that are set aside for the Land Authority] to purchase “affordable housing” or conservation land is authorized under the current law.]
This is a bit outdated  but full of important information about affordable housing in Monroe County.
Here is a page on the Monroe County website showing more up-to-date information.