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New affordable housing units to be built on $1.5 million of land in Upper Keys

Three newly constructed houses.
Habitat for Humanity of the Upper Keys
Esslinger Heights, a Habitat Upper Keys project completed in May, 2022, in Islamorada.

Some good news for price-squeezed residents of the Upper Keys: the construction of eight new affordable housing units has just been approved by Monroe County.

The land purchases, over two sites, will total about $1.5 million and come from a partnership between the county's Land Authority Governing Board and nonprofit Habitat for Humanity of the Upper Keys.

“We've done a really good job over these past couple years finding sites for the Lower Keys Habitat for Humanity, but Upper Keys has been more challenging,” said Christine Hurley, Monroe County Land Authority's executive director

Hurley said the land authority went “a little bit out of the box” to secure plots of land with existing building permit rights, known as ROGO allocations.

READ MORE: "State legislation may open a path for affordable housing development in the Keys"

The first project includes purchasing land at 159 Florida Avenue, near mile marker 92, that would replace “dilapidated, unoccupied mobile homes” currently on the property with six new affordable housing units, according to Land Authority Governing board documents.

“To get some families that can now establish roots here and be in a home with a backyard and have that sense of community is just so exciting for me,” said District 2 Commissioner Michelle Lincoln.

The second project is slated to be redeveloped on property along Hibiscus Lane in Key Largo, near mile marker 101. This one is expected to yield two affordable housing units.

In 2021, United Way of Collier County and the Florida Keys determined that out of over 36,000 homes surveyed, 33% of them, which is a percent over the state average, could not afford basic essentials, including housing costs like rent and utilities.

Habitat for Humanity of the Upper Keys, founded in 1989, is a locally-operated arm of Habitat for Humanity International. They develop affordable housing across Key Largo, Tavernier and Islamorada. Their most recent completed project was the construction of four housing units at mile marker 89 in Islamorada.

“We are so appreciative and thrilled,” said Lindsey Fast, executive director of Habitat of the Upper Keys.

Project plans and renderings for the housing units are not available yet, according to a county spokesperson.

Julia Cooper reports on all things Florida Keys and South Dade for WLRN.
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