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One year after Hurricane Irma, group steps up to help families still struggling

Posted at 3:09 PM, Aug 31, 2018

It's been nearly a year since Hurricane Irma hit the Florida Keys, but many are still struggling to recover.

Alicia Miller had her home destroyed in the storms. While she’s working a full-time job, she can’t afford to live in the kind of home she lived in before the hurricane.

“I couldn't get that for, it would be double,” says Miller. “Housing has literally doubled in price.”

The storm destroyed thousands of homes, making one of Florida's most expensive places to live, even more expensive. And people like Miller, who keep the tourism industry in the Keys afloat, are feeling it most.

“My coworkers, they are still living with their families,” says Miller. “Their houses got destroyed and rent shot up.”

Since the storm, officials say it's hard to find a two-bedroom, two-bathroom home for less than $2,500 a month.

But, there is help on the way. A new 200-unit workforce housing complex is being developed, which will include several new, affordable cottages.

In just a few weeks, a family will move into one of the cottages and pay no more than a third of their household income in rent.

The homes were Maggie Whitcomb's idea. Living in the Keys and working as a waitress in college, she felt moved to help after the storm.

“I used to be one of those people,” explains Whitcomb. “You know, I feel like, deep down, I still am.”

Whitcomb and her husband donated money to start the Florida Keys Community Land Trust, which purchased lots around the Keys with the goal of building and renting out nine homes like these by the end of the year. They plan to build more in the future.

“I'm really hoping that people will learn about it and that they will realize that they need to care about this,” says Whitcomb. “These are the people who make the Keys what they are.”

The group behind the workforce complex says it doesn’t have to take a storm for people to step up.