From the Field: Community Land Trust Provides Opportunities after Hurricane Irma

The Florida Keys Community Land Trust (CLT) is turning Hurricane Irma’s disastrous impact into opportunities to build new affordable housing. The Florida Keys CLT purchases storm-damaged property and places it into a trust to stabilize real estate values and provide permanently affordable housing. The CLT is also a catalyst for creating Caribbean-style “Florida Keys Cottages” - new affordable units designed for sustainability, storm-resistance, and affordability.

The Florida Keys already had a serious shortage of affordable homes before Hurricane Irma hit the area in 2017. According to NLIHC’s The Gap: A Shortage of Affordable Homes report, 49 % of residents in Monroe County were already cost-burdened, spending more than 30% of their incomes on rent, and 26% were severely cost-burdened, spending more than half of their incomes on rent. The hurricane turned the housing shortage into a crisis for low income families.

The Florida Keys Community Land Trust is reducing the effects of post-storm speculation on real estate values by placing the land in a trust and constructing housing for hospitality workers. Community land trusts’ collective land-ownership model ensures that the homes stay below the market rate in perpetuity.

Some of the land the CLT owns is being used to locate Keys Cottages, designed by architect Marianne Cusato after Hurricane Katrina as shelter for displaced families and individuals. The cottages in the Florida Keys are built on stilts to protect from flood damage, and their exteriors are made of structurally insulated panels, which are strong and cost-effective. The CLT seeks to purchase more land for the cottages to provide additional housing options for lower income individuals and families.

“The community land trust is a solution to create affordable housing and keep it affordable forever,” says Gladys Cook from the Florida Housing Coalition, an NLIHC state partner. “They’re replacing lost workforce housing and preventing new developments from being market-rate.”

For more information, please contact Maggie Whitcomb, founder and patron of Florida Keys CLT at: maggie@affordablekeys.org