Community forum | “The Keys Housing Crisis” Creating Community and Political Will

KEY WEST — The Lower Keys Chapter of the League of Women Voters kicks off its 2018 Civics Lessons with a community forum on workforce housing from those whose attempts to complete projects has often ended in frustration.

The community forum, “The Keys Housing Crisis: Creating Community and Political Will,” is open to the public and will be held 6-8 p.m., Monday, Feb. 26, at the Harvey Government Center, 1200 Truman Ave. Admission is free.

The forum focuses on one of the top challenges facing Key West and the Florida Keys: What is standing in the way of success in ensuring affordable housing for our local workforce? How can we in the community empower ourselves to assist?

The panel discussion including questions from the audience will be moderated by Dr. William Hettinger, president and founder of Prosperous Communities, a housing and economic development consultancy.

Hettinger has spoken nationwide on the housing market failure affecting resort communities, developed training to provide community development professionals with the skills needed to address a housing crisis, and coached community leaders through the development of strategies and implementation of solutions.

Other long-time workforce housing advocates on the panel include:

* Claude Gardner of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Knight & Gardner Realty;

* Ed Swift, founder, president and director of Historic Tours of America. Over the past 20 years Swift and his company have been responsible for the design, permitting and construction of over 325 low, very low, median and moderate affordable income housing units:

* Manuel Castillo, executive director of the Key West Housing Authority;

* Debbie Swift Batty, HTA director of property development specializing in workforce housing and president of the board of Habitat for Humanity.

“We know there have been many public forums and discussions on workforce and affordable housing,” said league board member Donna Windle, who is coordinating the event. “But we believe ours comes at this challenging topic from a different perspective.

“We want to learn from those who continue to press forward with plans, often in the face of significant resistance,” she said. “We believe we can learn what we, as a community, need to do to get this housing built.”

Panelists will make opening statements and Hettinger will moderate the discussion. Audience members will submit written questions to be addressed by panelists during the discussion.