Allow me please, to interrupt the Off The Grid series because I came across a couple articles in the local Key West fish wrapper which I want to expound upon. The Sunday edition has two stories: One in regards to the infamous shopping center with a wallymart planned for Rockland Key. You’ll need to buy a copy to read the whole thing. The other is the announcement of yet another meeting of the Monroe County Commission to, ‘study’ more on affordable housing. This one is free to read.
Both articles fully illustrate how little the Keys are doing in regards to affordable housing in the islands. The shopping center is being delayed over arguments for adding in some workforce housing for the alleged ‘jobs’ said shopping center is going to provide. Jobs which will not exist and those which do, won’t pay enough for anyone to afford to live there.
The other story is even more illustrative in it’s yet another round of arguments over ROGO units, In other words, the same old arguments which have been going on for years. While government puppets, whose strings are being pulled by developers argue over fuzzy math, trading housing units and credits, fewer people are able to make it in the islands because of the lack of any affordable places to live.
The only real thing anyone is doing about the housing issues is seeking out and fining or evicting landlords and tenants for illegal rentals. Illegal because developers, resort and hotel owners, and rich bastards have manipulated the laws to make most rentals against the law. Most of these landlords are just trying to supplement their income to pay high mortgages by renting out whatever they can, and taking advantage of the need for real people to find real places to live. But the wealthy and powerful only want the great unwashed to show up and mow their lawns, clean their rooms, serve their food, and wipe their asses. Nobody cares where they go after work, as long as it ain’t anywhere near the wealthy resorts and compounds.
The facts are these. The local and county governments have no real intention of ever seriously addressing the problems of affordable housing in the Keys. They will pay lip service to it like they care but they really and truly don’t give a shit. They know full well, for every person who leaves the Keys after spending a year or two there and now can’t afford to stay, there are 10 more waiting up north to come down and take a chance. Let people pile 5 or 6 deep into a 2 bedroom house. Let them stay at the homeless center. Let them commute all the way from Miami. As long as the shitty work gets done and they stay out of sight, those in charge in the Keys will do nothing to help the situation.
It’s almost impossible to legally rent your own property in the Keys now. Boat living is getting squeezed out ever so slowly. Wages will never catch up to the cost of living there. The powers in charge simply do not care. All you will see is more meetings, more graphs and fuzzy math, but never so much as one brick being laid.
If they could do without a workforce you can bet the Keys would only be open to the rich and the tourists. And the latter only until they max out their credit cards and leave. The Keys will never have affordable housing no matter what any government stooges promise. It ain’t happening.
If there is one upside to all this, in a few years, perhaps sooner than later, nobody will be able to live in the Keys. With the oceans continuing to rise, and they are, and flooding of the streets and roads in the Keys now commonplace, the islands are just one category 4 storm away from being uninhabitable no matter how much money one has. But for now, it’s just not affordable for the average worker bee.
It’s a damn shame and one of the main reasons I left after living there for so long. The Keys were my dream home, a place I loved and still do now. But the Keys I know and love is going away. It’s a shadow of what it was when I made my first visit there in 1974. Over developed, over fished, dying reefs, and corporate takeovers have ruined it. I miss my Florida Keys and Key West, and still get a bit homesick, even though Hawaii is working out so well. But I know now I won’t be going back. It just would not be the same.
For any of you going down there to vacation or take a stab at living in the Florida Keys, have at it. Enjoy what time you can squeeze in there. Just remember the place was so much more better not too long ago. Now it’s just an enclave of the wealthy and corporate interests. All the talk of margaritas, swaying palm trees, and pirates is nothing more than advertising. The Keys have become a theme park on an island. Just like the ones in Orlando.
At least I did live there for a while. I did manage to experience some of the real Keys over the years. I’ll always have those memories. But it still hurts to see what money and power have done to an island paradise. I’m not sorry I left but damn, it was nice while it lasted. At least I have found a more better paradise out here.