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In Post-Irma Keys, One Tiny New Home Is Cause For Major Celebration

Nancy Klingener
Maggie Whitcomb, the founder of the Florida Keys Community Land Trust, cuts the ribbon on the group's first home completed on Big Pine Key.

One little cottage of less than 800 square feet got a lot of attention - and even a ribbon-cutting Thursday. The home, in the Avenues neighborhood of Big Pine Key, was the first Keys Cottage to be completed by the Florida Keys Community Land Trust.

The group was formed after Hurricane Irma destroyed or majorly damaged more than 4,000 homes in the Keys.

"A year later we're starting to see good recovery. But this is really just the beginning of what we need," said David Rice, mayor of Monroe County.

The county bought the land for the cottages. The land trust built them and will rent and manage them as affordable workforce housing.

Read more: An interview with the architect of the Keys Cottages

"You have to start somewhere. You have to show what it feels like," said Marianne Cusato, the project's architect.

"We're hoping these can be a catalyst for a larger rebuilding effort to address this workforce housing problem."

Four land trust cottages are at or near completion, with another five underway — so far.

The trust is now working on selecting tenants. Rents will depend on income, maximizing at about $2,300 for those who make more than the average median income in the Keys.

Nancy Klingener was WLRN's Florida Keys reporter until July 2022.
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