“Unaffordable Housing”—The Gift That Keeps On Giving…


by John Donnelly…….

Bamboozled, hoodwinked and indoctrinated for many years by government and developers into believing an inauthentic maxim has damaged our fragile aquatic ecosystem, while allowing the introduction of virulent toxins into our communities.

Widespread fraud and deception by government officials are nothing new to the citizens of Monroe County. Research has produced evidence identifying a long-standing, cozy and quid pro quo type of relationship existing between politicians and developers. This arrangement has been eloquently described on numerous occasions in a plethora of periodicals.

Over-development and over-population on our string of tiny islands are gradually turning our neighborhoods, and the waters in which we secure our livelihoods and recreate, into a wasteland. Our lives, homes and families are being disrupted and disturbed over the almighty dollar.

Chronic traffic congestion, litter, pollution and hazardous accidents on our road and waterways have reached epidemic proportions. According to many divers and boat captains that I’ve spoken with, approximately 90% of the coral reef has already been destroyed.

Inquires from conscientious residents concerning the demise of our environment are often met with denials, obfuscation and feigned concern. ‘Standard Operating Procedure’ on the part of those running roughshod with our future, requires the selling and telling of falsehoods, in the hope of minimizing and concealing the extent of devastation accrued via their actions.

Perhaps it’s not a lie, if you’ve been indoctrinated with inaccurate information and become committed to an ideal that has taken on a life of its own. We’ve all been betrayed and led astray. Conceivably, a more accurate expression identifying this skewed reality, might be ‘delusional’.

Although the ruse has been uncovered, the ‘Trojan Horse’ continues to be paraded around as though it’s actually a benefit, offering a real solution for a perceived problem.

The sweet deals created vis a vis accommodations exchanged in kind, between consenting and conspiring partners is the real news. This ‘Trojan Horse’ has been examined, exposed and compromised, taking hits and being unmasked as an empty and barren enterprise, offering no relief for the targeted population.

Marketing and promoting an idea, which by design undermines the proposition that it purports to support, has a mischievous and treacherous undertow to it. Millions of dollars have been spent to exert a myopic and hypnotic pull upon many conscientious, intelligent and compassionate citizens so they’ll mesmerizingly embrace a belief in something that doesn’t exist.

Before I continue, what I’m about to say is not applicable to the esteemed members presently serving on our county commission nor does it relate to our distinguished county manager and his staff.

I’ve lived here a long time. Going back some years, turbulence, dishonesty and corruption were a part of Monroe County’s effort to promote “affordable and workforce housing”. Many misguided relationships between commissioners, staff and developers were agreed upon. Far too many of these transactions had damaging consequences that caused environmental destruction, decreased property values and ‘quality of life compromises’ deleterious to family life.

In a bid to stir the gravy, it seems the City of Key West is seeking to enter into another ‘affordable housing misadventure’ with the Peary Court properties. Predictably, it appears that the arguments for the project are not going to be based in fact. Twisted words, distorted reasoning, convoluted contractual agreements, veiled threats, stonewalling and prevarications will attempt to rule the day, as social media and public promotion will be the chosen methods to control and manage the debate. Referendum outcomes are frequently determined by such designs.

During my lifetime, I’ve come to the conclusion that the government should not be in the real estate business. As a simple man from the South Bronx, “Affordable Housing” is: “Living in a house that you can afford.” “Workforce Housing” is: “Living in an apartment or home that you can afford to live in.”

The Florida Keys are “built out to the max,” thus the need for deceptive (feel good) language, myths and notions that are politically correct (affordable housing//workforce housing). These descriptions are necessary, so a justification of sort may be given for the excessive building and development that is eroding the quality of our lives and communities.

Denser, congested and crammed ‘housing projects’ are being built throughout the Keys. Some of these developments lack proper planning and access for emergency vehicles. Many of them appear to have insufficient parking, along with inadequate accessibility for vehicles to safely merge onto and exit from US 1.

With these types of politically correct projects it becomes simple and convenient for governments to give developers what they want. ‘Waivers’ have been granted to builders allowing them to by-pass ‘set back requirements,’ while ignoring ‘space ordinances’ that at one time required homes to have a set distance from one another. In many instances, re-planting trees and plants, which have been illegally destroyed because of the “excessiveness” of a particular development are not required of the builder.

Traveling the Keys, I’ve witnessed construction materials being amassed at some development sites, which appear to be significantly inferior in quality to the products I utilized in building my home. Craftsmanship and adherence to hurricane building code practices do not seem to be strictly enforced.

Profitable businesses and cities taking in billions of dollars in taxes, revenues and fees have the capacity to pay their employees’ salaries commensurate with the wealth they’ve accrued.

Some businesses and municipalities provide unique living quarters which are extremely clean and beautifully constructed for their employees. Both private and public domains have offered these benefits and services to staff with extraordinary success.

In closing, keeping one’s eye on the ball concerning South Florida’s vanishing water supply is another area of critical concern. A clear and present danger for the ‘sustenance maintaining all life’ will become a reality when the cessation of a clean and secure source of drinking water is upon us.

‘Wastewater treatment mismanagement and confusion’ along with sewage dumping and leakage added to threats stemming from excessive demand and waste of this invaluable resource have coalesced into a menacing and emergent crisis that will only become more severe.

Contamination of the Biscayne Aquifer via a plethora of intrusions still hasn’t been adequately shored up. It appears the official response to these foreboding breeches has been continued building and development, by whatever means possible, while inventing kinder and gentler terms (affordable & workforce housing) along the way, so as not to alarm the masses to the imminent hazards awaiting them.

Continuing to strangle ourselves on copious amounts of debris, waste and filth, resultant from disproportionate development, is an extreme and regrettable form of suicide.

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John Donnelly
John Donnelly, a resident of Key Largo was born, raised and went to high school in the South Bronx. Upon graduation he was awarded several scholarships to college. He chose to enlist in the United Sates Marine Corps. While serving in Vietnam John was wounded in action. He received two meritorious promotions, one during combat. Upon discharge and return to America, John had a difficult time transitioning back into civilian life. He found himself homeless for the next 4 years. As he worked out some troublesome concerns, he began to yearn to make some sense of his experiences via education. He sought and received his GI Bill benefits. He later graduated frpm the University of Miami on the President’s Honor Roll. While working at a Maximum Security Prison Facility for criminally insane adolescents, he earned a Master of Science degree from Florida International University.
More Articles by John Donnelly prior to November, 2014.

13 thoughts on ““Unaffordable Housing”—The Gift That Keeps On Giving…

  1. John, Once again, a great article, one that I agree with you with an almost perfect overlap. I say “almost” because I do think the government has a role to play if the market cannot do the job (not the Peary Ct. deal, which is the usual crap you beautifully point out in your article). In our beloved Fla. Keys, this has proven to be the case. I, like you, am not fond of having the government in the real estate business, but it can act in other ways to provide work force housing — zoning, deed restrictions, etc. But, as you say, it is usually self interest and cronyism that stops it.
    One more thing: My good friend Joel Biddle, who worked for many years at Reef Relief and could be considered an expert on these matters, already believes it is too late for our reefs, not just here, but everywhere. That means ecological disaster. I hope he is wrong. ciao, Jerome

  2. Jerome,

    Sincerely appreciate your comments. Value all that you have to say. Thanks for reading and responding to the article.

    I believe sometimes our minds can become clouded with pie in the sky ideas, concerning matters we really have little power and control of; other than utilizing an analytical and reasoned common sense approach, to address the reality we’ve created.

    Blessings & Respect, Always…

  3. John, Yes, sure, pie in the sky ideas. Some are just that and others are good ideas. Whether it be the government, the private sector, or anything else, all ideas are subject to both and everything in between. What I see in the Fla Keys is the market’s inability to provide work force housing, mainly because the politicians have allowed this to happen. Ergo, I don’t see who else could fix this problem. The market won’t. Thanks for your article, ciao, Jerome

  4. Said it many times. Supply and demand works. It fails as soon as government gets involved. Is no reason employers can not pay wages that are livable for a worker. If that means they must charge a bit more then so be it. When the tourists stop coming because of it being overpriced then not as much workforce is needed. And that follows with fewer housing needs and the rent will drop. Along with it property values drop. That is when the government starts to care because lower property values equal lower taxes. That results in not hiring lazy city workers that do as little as they can and some that are over paid. The city needs to get out of the housing business and everything will work just fine. If the city does not buy Peary Court a private investor will and if rents are too high they lower them because empty units make nothing.

    As soon as it gets to the point that workers can not be found employers will start offering higher pay. As to the workers , you are free to leave anytime you wish and if your working too long and hard then maybe you should leave.

    1. Jimmy, I’ve heard you say this before, and, in theory, you are correct. In theory! It never seems to happen that way. The lag between what the employer will pay once it becomes obvious the cost of living is killing their work force, is so pronounced, that the “theory” never does the job. What happens instead is people who’ll work for these not enough wages, people who will pile into apartments, share them, and in general, lower the common denominator for acceptable living. In a sense, without them even knowing it, they are ‘scabs” lowering the standard of living for everyone. But it is not their fault, they are just trying to make it as well. Your comment is well taken, not ignorant or stupid, but I don’t think it gets the job done. Good stuff, Jerome

      1. Yes they lower the standards of living. We were in KW for the week of NYE and met a girl that told us that her and her boy friend were renting a shed just big enough for a bed at $600 a month. Yes that is very low standards. It is just a step away from being homeless.
        Lets not over look the fact that the city is controlling rents to a degree. And by doing so it messes up supply and demand. The situation you have in KW forces workers to lower standards and likely the turn over rate is very high. They come to KW to visit and fall in love with Paradise. They quickly learn that they will be working 60 or more hours to live poorly. After a few months they leave and likely used up savings and ran up credit cards to limit. Employers do not care because a new worker will show up and the cycle starts again.

        This is because some are willing to work that hard for so little. Not saying I have a cure because I don’t. Slowly the problem grows. At some point employers will be forced to pay more or have no help. Must assume the pay is enough to keep cab drivers happy and likely is one of the better jobs. But if the owner can’t find drivers then they will raise wages. If our ride was to cost 10 or 20 % more it would not be a big deal to us. Anyone visiting KW should be able to pay a bit more or perhaps should not be there.

        But until government gets out of the landlord business the supply and demand can not work. Investors will not build controlled rentals. And with the high cost of land and materials you can not make a profit from such a building.

        It is too late to create low cost housing. With a shortage (demand) rents will keep going up till nobody will pay it.

        1. Jimmy, Very good comment. I see you understand my comment completely and describe the current situation perfectly. But you still do not convince me with regard to the “market’s” magical qualities. I’m not asking the government to be in the real estate business, I’m asking it to referee it. For instance: when the Truman Annex housing was conjured up, wasn’t there supposed to be a 30 day minimum for occupancy? If that had been enforced, much of that housing could have been used for the work force here. The same can be said for so many of the housing possibilities in KW that have been turned into short term vacation rentals. There are many creative things that could have been done to maintain affordable rental housing. You yourself, who has so beautifully described the mess we are in, admit you don’t have a cure. Nothing is for sure in this world, but I am offering a cure, one that the powers to be have purposely ran around. One other thing: the only reason I can afford the place I have is because I live a life style few are willing to do. I am Post Consumer Man, something we should all be to some extent, but that would mean a different economic system. None of this would apply to my vision of the world. Good stuff, ciao, Jerome


    Analytical reasoning, fact based and wisdom exudes from your comments. Thank you so very much for joining the debate.

    Common sense and truth have been absent from this’scandalous adaptation’ (affordable housing)
    for a very long time. It seems that many people would rather feel good about the issue; than intelligently address it.

    Always value and appreciate your contributions. Thanks again.

  6. Jerome,

    You always make good points. I believe it was the government’s intervention, in collusion with ‘big developers’, that promoted a ‘feel good’ nonsensical strategy to dupe the citizenry into accepting unrestricted and unsafe over-development.

    Unfortunately, many respected individuals have taken hold of the bait. For some, it’s difficult for them to admit that they’ve made a mistake.

    Again, always appreciate the worth and value of your insights and perceptions. Thank you.

  7. John, I agree, the government has colluded with the developers, but it is the developers that run the show. They control the politicians. But … if government has failed us with regard to all this, good government is the only thing that can save us. Nobody else will. The rest is up to us, the voters, to get it done. Is the voter sophisticated enough to do this? I’d say the jury is still out. Thanks John, Jerome

  8. John:
    Thank you for adding: “businesses and municipalities provide unique living quarters which are extremely clean and beautifully constructed for their employees” That is exactly what Peary
    Court does and will do in perpetuity when the City buys it.

  9. Faithful Reader,

    Sincerely appreciate your taking the time to read and respond to the article. I’ve read the insightful wisdom you’ve shared throughout paper. Your valuable contributions enrich debate and further intelligent discussions of the issues before us.

    Thank you so very much…

  10. Affordable housing would be small single wide mobile homes. Likely FEMA would step in and not allow this. Trick here they would need to be put on government and city owned property. The rent would be very low because the building is very low in price and the land can easily be kept as just a city asset. You would need to limit its rental to full time workers only. Solves the problem and very fast. Yes government controlled rents but no investor will build low return property. We been in the housing game for many years and sell off anything that has low profits. The time to secure housing for workforce needed done 40 years ago. Why did the city not buy Peary Court years ago ? It would been far cheaper years ago. Why did you allow a scum bag developer to tear down the Simonton trailer park ? Yes it was ran down but could have been saved with pressure from code enforcement. Look at it now. Unless something changed in last 30 days all work stopped and will likely go bankrupt. Look at who voted to allow it and maybe check some bank accounts. MONEY bought that deal to be approved and took away affordable housing.

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