Key West to vote on Old Town affordable housing project

Location of the Peary Court complex
Location of the Peary Court complex

The owners of an ex-Navy housing complex in Key West’s Old Town neighborhood are seeking approval to build 48 deed restricted affordable housing units. The proposal will go before the Key West Planning Board on Thursday evening.

The apartments, to be located at the complex known as Peary Court, would augment the 160 units that are already on the 24.5-acre property that is bounded by Palm Avenue, White Street and Angela Street in the northeast portion of Old Town. The proposal comes as the city of Key West is considering purchasing Peary Court from property owner White Street Partners for a proposed $55 million.

A referendum on the potential purchase, as well as a vote on bonding the acquisition, is being considered for March 15, the day of Florida’s presidential primaries.

Jim Hendrick, whose Critical Concern Consultants is doing White Street’s planning work, told The Real Deal that White Street plans to build the 48 units regardless of whether the referenda take place.

“This project is an affordable housing project that is going forward no matter what,” Hendrick said.

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The project, dubbed Southard Park by the developers, would include 10 studios, 33 one-bedroom units and five two-story, two-bedroom units. The studios would be 400 square feet, the one-bedroom apartments would be 605 square feet and the two-bedroom apartments would be 919 square feet. The units would be rented per the guidelines set in Key West’s affordable housing ordinance, with the studios going for $1,154 per month and the two-bedrooms costing $2,226 per month, Hendrick said.

The units could only be rented to individuals and families who meet affordable income thresholds set by Key West, with the studios reserved for low-income earners and the largest units for moderate-income earners. Guidelines approved by the city commission in 2014 capped the earnings for a moderate-income family of four at $98,880.

White Street purchased Peary Court for $35 million in 2013, and earlier this year scrapped a plan to demolish the 160 homes and replace them with upscale housing in the face of community opposition.

The proposed $55 million sales price to the city doesn’t account for the planned Southard Park units. Key West is considering buying Peary Court in order to make a dent in the town’s estimated 3,000 unit shortfall of affordable housing.