NEW NAVY COMMANDER INHERITS HOUSING CRISIS

The Navy demolished 166 homes in Sigsbee Park in May 2021 after it was flooded during Hurricane Wilma in 2005 and stood empty for 16 years. CONTRIBUTED

So much for a learning curve.

Captain Beth Regoli, the new commander of Naval Air Station Key West, barely had time to unpack her things before rushing headlong into Key West’s housing crisis.

Regoli took the helm from Capt. Mark Sohaney on May 12 and immediately had a lot to do, with a May 15 news article on military.com about the lack of housing for young sailors at NAS Key West.

The already critical housing shortage on the island, which affects both military personnel and civilians, has been exacerbated in recent weeks by the Navy’s closure of two barracks buildings that can accommodate up to 100 single sailors.

The decision to close the barracks buildings for renovations was made months ago under Sohaney’s command. Regoli was not involved in the discussions or the decision, and the military.com article was published the day before its official first day on Monday.

But she is now in charge of finding solutions.

“Housing solutions are important because the health and safety of our sailors is a top priority,” Regoli told Keys Weekly on Wednesday. “I look forward to continuing a great working relationship with the Public Private Venture office and finding solutions to modernize and renovate the homes of our sailors and families.”

The closure has forced about 60 junior sailors, recently stationed in Key West, to compete for limited housing options on base or private rental apartments. In Key West’s extremely expensive housing market, rents typically exceed the $2,364 monthly housing allowance young sailors without dependents receive in Key West.

With average rents for a one-bedroom apartment in Key West hovering around $3,000, sailors willing to pay the difference between their allowance and their rent still need to find an available unit — and offer the first and last month of rent and a security deposit.

“The next option – privatized basic accommodation – is also a failure for young single seafarers,” the article said.

Naval Air Station Key West spokeswoman Danette Baso Silvers acknowledged to military.com that the current waiting list for privatized housing “can go up to four months.”

“In the meantime, Silvers added, the Navy is making vacation rental style trailers available on military property, but sailors are charged the same rate as vacationing military personnel — $127 per day or $3,810 per month. . Shared between two sailors, the rent is part of their housing allowance. Of the 60 sailors affected by the barracks closure, only 19 have yet to find alternative housing, Silvers told military.com.

Navy demolished but did not replace 166 units at Sigsbee,

The closure of the two barracks buildings isn’t the only housing issue at Naval Air Station Key West, where 166 townhouses in Sigsbee Park have stood empty and unused for more than a decade after being flooded by the Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

The Key West City Commission in 2016 directed Navy personnel to expedite the repair or replacement of these units. Returning those 166 units to active use for military personnel would ease competition between military and civilians for private rental housing, City Commissioner Sam Kaufman said at the time.

Five years later, in May 2021, the Navy demolished those 166 townhouses in Sigsbee Park and have yet to replace them. Naval Facilities Command Southeast, which manages Navy properties, has solicited proposals from interested developers. These proposals were due in December 2021.

“Now there are 18.13 acres of green space. We are awaiting a feasibility study and then executives can determine options for the property,” Silvers said Wednesday, but did not have a timeline for the study. feasibility.

“I look forward to the next steps for the 18.13 acres of Sigsbee Park so that we can determine options for the use of this property,” added Regoli.

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