Dear Editor,

So now we know what PLAN B was for Peary Court, should the March referendum fail as it did. We had been told there were other buyers waiting in the wings…. but they weren’t interested in the deal the city was offered for $55 Million – they wanted MORE for LESS! And it looks like they may get it, despite the voters’ wishes.

With a great NEED for ACTUAL affordable housing we need to look at the pros and cons of this latest proposed deal.

1. We can preserve existing housing we are told (fear has been cast that Peary Ct could become second homes and we lose this existing housing – but how likely is this? Several actual apartment complexes have sold recently (Ocean Walk and West Isle Club which those 192 units sold for just $40 million in 2014 – did the CIty show any interest in buying those apartments?). NONE of those apartment complexes have become second homes or condos. Have you seen the glut of houses for sale these days! Take the old Simonton St trailer park that did away with actual affordable housing, and now there are $750,000 to $950,000 little modular ‘houses’ that have been sitting well over a year not selling. So how realistic is this fear mongering that we will lose what is actually UNaffordable housing at Peary Ct?

2. Is this the “AFFORDABLE” housing we are led to believe it is? These 2 bedroom apartments can legally rent as ‘affordable’ for nearly $2400/month! Do you consider this affordable? 48 are already deed restricted with this unaffordable ‘affordable’ designation of rents. And if the city agrees to increase density, I have heard from a reliable source that the 2 bedroom apartments could be converted to TWO – One bedroom apartments each and rent for as much as $2065/month with the deed restrictions as moderate-income Affordable.

1. We lose citizen input that they do not want City ownership, involvement or government monies going to Peary Ct. Is this a small point, when citizens voted and told elected officials what they want and do not want?

2. Most tragically what we would LOSE is the ability to actually create additional, badly needed truly affordable housing. The $12.5 MILLION the city wants to give to a PRIVATE INVESTOR could build 148 or more smaller, but more desirable units. Ocean Walk apartments is building 80 new apartments at a cost of $84,000 each. I would imagine studio apartments cold be built for much less. And what’s best about this option for our $12.5 Million is as soon as these units would be completed on City land they would be owned outright, and all rents collected (after expenses paid) would begin accruing in a housing fund for future housing. Imagine 150 units owned by the local housing authority averaging $1300/month 150 units X $1300/mo = $195,000 income/month and over a year would be $2,340,000. The net should be nearly $2 MILLION a year after expenses.


What we need:
We need the City to create an actual definition of affordable housing that represents the needs of its citizens. This was asked for over a year ago by local citizen advocates. What we need are studio and 1 bedroom apartments that rent between $1000 and $1500/month. We should NOT be wasting our $12.5 million on nothing more than a legal promise of unaffordable rents in perpetuity. You must always look at LOST OPPORTUNITY with any investment you make, and what we will lose if this deal goes through is the OPPORTUNITY TO BUILD what people really need.

The commissioners, mayor, planning director and legal department CAN create a definition of AFFORDABLE housing that is actually AFFORDABLE. They are the only ones who can do this, we citizens can not will it so or vote this change (but we can vote new people in!). For way way too many years this city has not just talked about affordable housing, but allowed real affordable housing to be done away with – yet they can never come up with viable, good solutions to create REAL affordable housing. WHY IS THIS?

We voted against the Peary Court deal in March. The citizens and voters did not like the deal. Will local politicians now steam roll over the voice of the people and approve this new deal? Maybe it is better than nothing, but lets not set the bar so low! Let’s look at the the best opportunity for creating needed housing with our $12.5 MILLION instead of subsidizing a purchase for a private investor.

The great deal we voters were led to believe Peary Courtt was for $55 Million (getting only part of the whole parcel of land) was obviously NOT a GREAT DEAL and WAY TOO EXPENSIVE – this new investor from Ft Lauderdale wants the WHOLE parcel of land for $48 MILLION!!!!

Would you not like to know WHO at the City PROPOSED GIVING away $12.5 MILLION OF GOVERNMENT MONEY TO A PRIVATE INVESTOR? Oh to be a fly on that wall 🙂

I count votes. Weekly, Payne, Lopez and Cates will all vote YES on this deal next TUESDAY (they ALL sponsored it!). So much for representing the voice of your constituents 🙁 Weekly, Lopez, Wardlow and Cates are all up for RE-ELECTION this year. So citizens WILL have the final say on how our government represents our concerns and spends our money.

I keep looking for honesty, transparency, logical-common sense decisions from my local government – but usually I am just trying to figure out how and WHY they come up with some of these ideas. Could it be they are too friendly with the big names in KW who are developers, investors, and realtors who want rents to remain high? Building actual, real, affordable housing would only drive rent prices down. I don’t know but it is an interesting thought – something is behind this UNAFFORDABLE rent deal. A vote YES on Tuesday is a vote against affordable rents.

Christine Russell

Key West

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