Sunday, February 19, 2006

Priced out of the Keys, workers come by bus

Hotel laundry worker Ammie Smith, 59, of Florida City, snoozes on a commuter bus that ferries her and other workers from south Miami-Dade County to jobs in the Florida Keys.
Photo from the Orlando Sentinel.

The fleet of private buses that ferry hundreds of bottom-rung wage-earners up and down the Keys every day is the most visible sign of the affordable-housing crisis threatening the economic viability and social fabric of Monroe County.

These workers can't afford to stay in Monroe County, and their would-be replacements can't afford to move there. Not when the average sale price of a single-family home in the Keys was $960,096 last year.

Lest other Floridians think the problem is peculiar to the Keys, advocates of work-force housing warn, they should think again. Monroe County, they say, is a harbinger of a trend spreading across Florida: The need for affordable housing is no longer confined to unskilled, low-wage earners.

As pricey condos, gated communities and mega-mansions take over the rest of the Florida coast and other desirable inland enclaves, public-safety and other lower- or middle-income workers are being pushed out of the housing market and farther from their jobs, threatening to leave other communities without as well.

Last year, the median sale price of an existing single-family home in Florida rocketed to $235,100, an 86% jump over the previous four years.

Read the Orlando Sentinel story here.


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