For some, Land Trust is essential
By Kyle Teal, Photo by Kyle Teal, Posted-Friday, May 23, 2008 7:23 PM EDT
Affordable units make Keys possible
Bahama Village resident Laetryce Smith found an unconventional Christmas gift for her 14-year-old daughter this past holiday season: A new place to live.
Smith, a mother of three, packs up her work materials each night at Avis Car Rental at Key West International Airport and hops on her blue moped, back to a home she never thought she could afford.
Smith was staying with her sister before December, where the living situation was a little cramped. When she contacted the Bahama Conch Community Land Trust, the nonprofit made it possible for her to have a place to call her own.
“I was born and raised in Key West, but I ran into some difficulties,” she said. “I went to [the Land Trust] and filled out an application, and [Executive Director Norma Jean Sawyer] got me in a nice, roomy place.”
Smith pays $585 a month, and doesn't think it would be possible to live in the Key West if it weren't for the Land Trust subsidizing part of her housing cost.
Smith said the Land Trust will charge her according to her salary. If she makes more, her rent increases.
According to the guidelines of the nonprofit's agreement with the city, Land Trust tenants shouldn't pay more the 30 percent of their income not including utilities, which sometimes presents a quandary, according to Deputy Director Wheeler Winstead.
Tenants who start to make more money don't want to be evicted and the Land Trust doesn't want to do the evicting.
And what about the people who make very little money, if any?
“How can we can exist when we are charging less than our cost to operate?” Winstead said. “If we want to operate like a good business, we can't run it at a loss.”
Tenants cannot make more than 100 percent of the area median income; the 2007 median for a family of four in Monroe County was $61,000, and $42,958 for individuals renter or buying.
The group's bookkeeping is under scrutiny by Mayor Morgan McPherson and other city officials. Information from last year showed 13 tenants were out of compliance with renting regulations and that 12 units were vacant, pending renovation and other delays.
Sawyer said the figures are outdated and that new information will show most all of the units are filled.
Land Trust members say those critical of its actions should see their accomplishments in preserving the character of Key West and making affordable housing available to low-income residents.
“We could not live here without the BCCLT,” homeowner Jim Marquardt said. He shares a 1,000-square-foot home at 204 Olivia St. with his partner of seven years and Land Trust board member Norman Laurendeau.
Marquardt is concierge at Simonton Court and the president of the trust board. He bought his home with a 15-year fixed mortgage rate from Wachovia bank in 2001 for $96,000. The couple pays about $1,700 a month with insurance and should have it paid off “in just few years.”
Their carpentry skills came in handy, as the home wasn't much when they started out.
“It was basically just a house on dirt,” the Arizona native said. “We installed the deck, fencing, landscaping, and interior lighting.”
Knowing their deed-restricted house will stay affordable for 99 years is a comfortable feeling for the couple.
Jethons Williams, a 32-year-old TV specialist for Monroe County, pays $895 a month to rent his two-bedroom apartment. His cost of rent, originally $630, rose steadily with his salary.
He made sure he had a unit secured with the Land Trust before he moved to Key West from upstate New York.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
In today's KeyNoter newspaper, reporter Kyle Teal reported on how the Bahama Conch Community Land Trust provides affordable housing to the citizens of our city. The article can be found on-line, or for convenience is reproduced here....
Thursday, May 22, 2008
The Bahama Conch Community Land Trust is proud to present our 2007-2008 Bi-Annual Report. The report is made available in a 2MB "pdf" file, which can be printed on virtually any computer. Just click the picture of the report on the right to view the full report.....
While viewing the report, you can also "save a copy" on your own computer if you wish to refer to it again while off-line.
(Like all "pdf" files, you'll need to have the Adobe viewer on your system. Most all newer systems have this installed already. If you don't have it on your system, you can install the viewer from: HERE. )
We are excited about our accomplishments since our last report, and are looking forward to great things to come.