Efforts to secure funding for Florida Keys housing in the wake of Hurricane Irma rank among priorities for Monroe County’s state representative in the upcoming legislative session.
State Rep. Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo) filed more than two dozen bills for the law-making session beginning Jan. 9, including a request of $20 million for the purchase of properties “to rebuild affordable [and] workforce housing by acquiring former trailer parks and other sites” as part of Irma recovery efforts.
“Hurricane Irma destroyed or substantially damaged thousands of units of housing, including those in trailer parks, that serve our working families,” says the HB 4361 appropriation request filed by Raschein.
“Affordable housing enables [the] workforce to remain in the Keys and ensure an adequate local labor pool for businesses in the Florida Keys,” it continues.
County Administrator Romas Gastesi said Friday, “We need the land to assist developers willing to build workforce housing and keep it affordable for working residents.”
Allocations from the state budget must be approved in the annual legislative session, which this year runs from Jan. 9 to March 9.
A separate Raschein bill, HB 4433, requests $2.85 million for a project of the Emergency Care Help Organization to “provide immediate, temporary [or] permanent housing options for installation of approximately 30 disaster housing units for eligible families in Monroe County ... [who] were displaced by Hurricane Irma.”
“We are requesting approval of a housing pilot program that would provide 30 affordable, immediate and resilient temporary [or] permanent housing to the citizens of Monroe County,” Raschein wrote. “Each unit can house a family of five.”
If approved, the project could serve as “a statewide pilot housing program that implements an alternative, innovative disaster-housing solution,” says the funding request. “A disaster cartridge home is a pre-manufactured solution that can be installed in hours rather than weeks or months by traditional construction.”
In an environmental request by Raschein, Gov. Rick Scott’s recommended $87.4 billion budget includes a $500,000 line item for “Monroe County Reef Protection,” which would go toward Mote Marine Laboratory’s efforts to rebuild and maintain its Lower Keys coral nurseries.
In HB 619, Raschein renews a request from 2017 to formally change the name of Florida Keys Community College to the College of the Florida Keys, which now offers a four-year degree program. She also seeks a $2.25 million appropriation to add more classrooms by converting outdated photography labs on the campus.
Passage of the Keys representative’s HB 1015 bill would limit elected members of the Monroe County Mosquito Control Board to serving no more than three consecutive four-year terms.
In 2016, the Florida Legislature passed Raschein’s Florida Keys Stewardship Act, which authorizes state expenditures toward protecting the people and environment of Monroe County. A request for $5 million toward water-quality projects is being submitted to legislators this year.