"In late September, Hurricane Ian, one of the most powerful and costly storms
to make landfall in the US, tore through southwest Florida and caused an
estimated $67 billion in property damage. But on Big Pine Key, a community 100
miles southwest of Miami that saw flooding and storm surges up to five feet, 27
nearly-finished cottages were still standing, largely unharmed.
“It was a good test,” says Maggie Whitcomb, who helped develop the cottages.
“You never want to have a storm, but it’s good to know after a serious weather
event just how strong your construction is.”
Built atop 12-foot tall white podiums with water-resistant finishes and
low-energy utilities, the cottages were constructed with structural insulated
panels (SIPs), a strong, airtight substance made from renewable materials that
can withstand 200-mile winds.
At $1,000 a month, they’re also some of the last affordable housing options for
working-class residents. That’s because they are owned by the Florida Keys
Community Land Trust (FKCLT), a nonprofit Whitcomb and her husband founded in
2017 in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
Hurricanes can cause billions of dollars of damage, and only a portion of that
damage is covered by insurance in most cases. Property data analytics company
CoreLogic estimates homeowners will be stuck with a bill from $10 to $17
billion in losses from Ian that weren’t covered by insurance. In a state that
already pays three times the national average for home insurance and where many
people have already lost all coverage, many homeowners will likely find it too
expensive to rebuild.
“Storms are nature’s way of causing gentrification,” says Whitcomb, a part-time
Keys resident. “I wanted to make sure that as few homes as possible were
available to be flipped or turned into vacation homes.” In the wake of Irma,
Whitcomb, who describes herself as a “radical altruist,” and her husband
started buying property damaged by the storm with their own money, including a
former RV park, and placed it in a public trust."
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics