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For decades, developers have been allowed to use affordable housing ROGOs to build rental properties which most of our workforce can’t afford to rent, and homes which our workforce can’t afford to buy. Think elementary school teachers earning $45,000; law enforcement earning $51,951; restaurant server, $23,499.  


Throwing more ROGOs at the problem won’t make developers build affordable housing that’s really affordable for our workforce: it’s more profitable for them to build housing that can be rented or sold at market rate.

In fact, 1300 more ROGOs creates more problems.  Every new rental generates a need for more workforce housing for teachers, 1st responders and others for the approximately 4,000 additional residents.  

Vacation Rentals: The single biggest problem contributing to our lack of workforce housing. 

Property that used to be long-term rentals for our workforce is now being used as vacation rentals.    The 2015 FIU Workforce/Affordable Housing Assessment and Action Study for the City of Marathon probably sums up the problem best: 








1300 more ROGOs won’t solve the workforce housing problem, but there ARE solutions:


1.  Return housing stock now being used as vacation rentals to housing for our workforce

Restrict vacation rentals to only those properties above a certain value. Although Florida Statute 509.032(7) preempted the authority of local jurisdictions after 2011 to enact new regulations that prohibit vacation rentals, or which regulate the frequency or duration of the rentals, it also created an exception that allows the Florida Keys to regulate vacation rentals on the basis of property valuation.   


Allowing vacation rentals of only high-value homes would eliminate vacation rental use of properties which would otherwise be used as workforce housing.  Islamorada already does something similar to this. Many other vacation destinations do as well.

2.  Enforce the Vacation Rental Rules

The vacation rental ordinances of Marathon, Islamorada and Key West were all enacted before 2011 and are thus enforceable.  Unfortunately, they did not effectively restrict vacation rentals to address the need for workforce housing, which could have avoided the problems we’re facing today. But the cities should at least consistently enforce the regulations they do have. Permits fees for vacation rentals and fines for vacation rental violations can help fund incentives for property owners who agree to long-term rentals for our workforce.

3.  Encourage Long Term Rentals with Incentives

Long-term rentals for our workforce could be subsidized by a tax break, elimination of permitting fees, and subsidies for property owners. Subsidies could be paid for with an impact fee on the properties that receive vacation rental permits. 

Addressing the vacation rental problem would not only be less expensive than the subsidies we’d have to give developers to build housing using the 1300 more ROGOs, it would also be less damaging to our environment and less dangerous during hurricane evacuation.


Commit to using existing ROGOs for truly affordable housing for our workforce

1.  Define and Require Workforce Housing for the remaining ROGOs

We have many more ROGOS left before build-out in 2023. We don’t need more; we need to use the ones we have for truly affordable workforce housing specifically for our workforce (those who derive at least 70% of their income providing goods and services within Monroe County). 


2.  Help Property Owners Rebuild – no new ROGOs needed

Help property owners rebuild damaged homes with grants, loans or subsidies in exchange for deed restrictions for workforce housing.  Subsidies and tax breaks we’d have to give developers for 1300 more ROGO housing would certainly be much more expensive.

Many more good ideas are available.

There are good ideas in the various studies the municipalities and the County have paid for over the years. The cities should use them! See our archives for copies of some of these reports.

And thank you to the property owners and builders who are already starting to address the workforce housing problem, rebuilding and site-building more affordable housing our workforce can afford with the ROGOS we already have.

“Even if the City successfully implements its affordable Housing Action Agenda, and develops the full supply of units recommended in this report, it may be fighting an ultimately losing battle if it cannot effectively manage the supply of vacation rentals within its borders.  *** Although this issue is extremely politically charged it is the opinion of the Center that this trend, if left unattended will wipe out any benefits that even the most effective affordable housing program(s) could create, and continue the pattern of price escalation and limited housing choices.”

Write or email the County Commissioners to restrict density bonuses and ROGO allocations to workforce housing in Key West and Marathon, preserving our community character, reducing traffic impacts, and providing a balance for developer profit-motive.

Here's a solution being proposed by one organization...

A rendering by Richard Chenoweth of "Keys Cottages" that are being designed by the Florida Keys Community Land Trust to house people who lost their homes during Hurricane Irma.  (Photo: Handout, Florida Keys Community Land Trust)

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