How Will Monroe County's "Buy Back" Program Affect Local Housing?

Lara in Florida

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Twenty homes are moving toward eventual demolition as part of the Rebuild Florida Voluntary Home Buyout Program, according to The Architect's Newspaper. Most are around the Big Pine area.

Monroe County Land Authority (MCLA) had identified around 60 properties that were eligible for the Buyout program. However, the program's prolonged administration process, paired with sales of properties on the private market, significantly cut the number of applicants.

The Rebuild Florida Voluntary Home Buyout Program was created in 2019 to address homes damaged during 2017's Hurricane Irma. The program is funded with federal community development block grants sent to help with disaster recovery.

Monroe County received $15 million of the $44 million in Rebuild Florida funding made available to 11 local governments. Monroe County uses the money to purchase properties at market value, then demolishes existing improvements and adapts the land for public use, such as stormwater infrastructure, recreation, or open space. Low and moderate-income areas receive priority.

Florida, especially the Keys, remains vulnerable to serious damage associated with tropical storms and flooding. King tides in 2020 led to 70 consecutive days of considerable flooding.

The Keys are also subject to increasingly expensive and scarce housing. Many hourly workers take long bus rides from Florida City because housing in the island chain is difficult to find. New construction down in Key West is almost unheard of. Affordable housing projects are proposed, but slow to open, and too small to make a dent in the current crisis.

Additionally, real estate in the area has seen even more dramatic price increases than in other markets. Realtor.com reports that the average home price in Monroe County is $995K, a 27% year-over-year increase.

With the pressures of both increased housing prices and reductions in the number of available homes, the area's future is hard to predict.

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Lara is a full-time liveaboard sailor exploring coastal Florida. She focuses on restaurants, attractions, and historic points of interest along Florida's coasts.

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