When I heard about it I predicted it. And it looks like it will be happening.
The it I am referring to is the new condo project at Sunset Marina. Back in the far corner of said marina in the older parking lot, the developers decided to build some more condos. About 60 or so. When I heard about said project I said it would mean the end of live aboards at Sunset Marina. And according to this story, I was correct. All the live aboards, about 60 or so, are about to become homeless. Welcome to Key West.
This doesn’t surprise me. All the signs were there even when I was living there. Slip rates were going up every year, attitudes toward the live aboards were cool at best. The marina manager, a really nice girl and one of the better marina managers I have encountered, was alway evasive about upcoming policies and projects. You could smell something was up.
The developers, and in particular the one mentioned in the link, are all asshole buddies with HWSNBN. And we all know how he feels about the dirty live aboard. So it was just a question of time before this happened.
This bullshit has so many different aspects to it. For one, 60 or so people will be evicted. They have very little alternative for living on a boat in Key West. The mooring field is right around the corner but some of these boats are not going to be too comfy tied out on a mooring ball. There is the unregulated field over off Fleming and the city harbor. But moorings are not as secure and I have a sneaking feeling those folks are in the sites of the powers which control this rock at the end of the world.
There are still a couple marinas which allow long term slip rentals, but at $27 a foot and up, they are no more affordable than an apartment on land.
Marathon would be the next stop and even there, marinas which are live aboard friendly are few and far between.
Then there are the slip owners. Many rent out their slips to pay the mortgage and bring in some income. Now they are not allowed. Imagine buying a piece of property which when bought you were allowed to rent out. Now others, who somehow have ruling power can tell you what you can and cannot do with your property. You pay for the property, you pay the taxes, you pay for the upkeep, and you are liable for said property. But somebody else has the right to tell you what you can and cannot do with it. Welcome to ‘merica.
With the live aboard option becoming less and less viable, it means more people will be searching on land for an affordable place to live. In Key West, this does not exist. Rents are already too high and the city’s idea of affordable housing rates is a joke. You can see in the story how developers can manipulate the code to get out of building any more low income housing than they have too. After all, the juicy rental money is with the rich, not the poor. With more people looking for a place to live, rates will continue to go up. As the rates go up, fewer lower income people will stay in Key West, and this is exactly what the rich want.
They know with Cuba opening up all the tourist money which used to come to Key West is fixin’ to head 90 miles south to Havana. The Key West economy has always relied on the tourism dollar. Without it, many businesses will shut down and a lot of the support personnel will leave. This means the rich can move in, buy up all the properties and create a little enclave of their very own. Much like Ocean Reef resort on the other end of the Keys. How long will it be before a gate goes up at the triangle going into Key West? You’ll need a special pass or permission to enter the island.
It’s damn shame it has come to this. Living on a boat is a nice alternative to conventional living. I did it for 6 of the last 8 years and liked it. I would do it again if I could find the right boat, but without anyplace to stay in Key West, it’s become less of an option. All thanks to greedy assholes who love to show how much they can push people around and feed their egos.
The city is just as much to blame. They rubber-stamp nearly every project which comes through and allow the developers to manipulate the system. They pay lip service to the plight of the affordable housing but do little or nothing about it. It all comes down to money. More for them, less for us. Us great unwashed would be so much more better if we just stayed out of Key West and went back to our ghettoes and shut up.
I don’t know what I will do when the time comes to return to Key West. I doubt I will find anything I can afford. Boat living looks like it will not be an option. So I will probably be looking elsewhere if I want to remain in the Keys. It’s depressing but at least I got to spend some time there. It was special, but it’s going away fast.