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As New Hurricane Season Starts, Keys Still Rebuilding From Irma

Almost 7 percent of homes in the Keys were destroyed or heavily damaged by Hurricane Irma.
Al Diaz
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Hurricane Irma was at Category 4 strength when it crossed the Florida Keys in September of 2017. And the Keys are still in the rebuilding process, even as a new hurricane season starts.

Irma destroyed or caused major damage to more than seven percent of the homes in the Florida Keys.

Since then, many have rebuilt with insurance money or other forms of aid. Others have been making do with temporary quarters, for more than a year and a half.

About 1,200 people in the Keys have signed up with Rebuild Florida, according to Helene Wetherington, the county's disaster recovery director. That program has $50 million set aside to help Keys residents repair their homes.

The county is set to get $90 million in federal housing money. That will be used to build rental workforce housing, as well as buying out trailer parks and scattered lots, Wetherington said.

The goal is to replace the mobile homes that were destroyed or heavily damaged with homes that are up to current codes, including elevating if necessary.

The housing market in the Keys is still very expensive. But the demand may have eased a little. A University of Florida study found that almost four percent of the population left the Keys after Hurricane Irma — and didn't come back.

The majority of those were in unincorporated Monroe County, which includes the Lower Keys, the area hardest hit by Irma.

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Nancy Klingener covers the Florida Keys for WLRN. Since moving to South Florida in 1989, she has worked for the Miami Herald, Solares Hill newspaper and the Monroe County Public Library.