The hoped and prayed-for real estate buyers' "feeding frenzy" has not yet appeared. The national housing market is off. There are thousands of unsold condominium units in Florida alone, and the run-up in prices during the boom which tapered off three years ago has discouraged most "regular" buyers.
Prices are actually coming down. Foreclosure rates are up 1000% over previous years. And "for rent" signs are proliferating at a rate unseen here since the Navy pulled out in the late '60's. Investors stuck with high taxes and insurance rates on properties they can't unload are trying to mitigate their losses, even if they had not intended to become landlords before the present situation developed.
Some of the more ambitious condominium projects in the Keys are in receivership, and the rumor mill says more will follow.
Add all this to the fuel crisis, the usual election-year jitters, and fear of another bad hurricane a la Wilma, and you have the current scenario. A time of watchful waiting and a sense of unreality.
And the situation begs the question, are there any "remedies" on the horizon that might actually be worse than the situation they purport to cure?
There have already been trial balloons about bringing in legalized gambling as an additional revenue source.
There is talk about rewriting the variance standards in the land development regulations, in order to facilitate development in already crowded areas.
And there's always the bugaboo of turning existing housing into more transient units, for a number of ostensibly beneficial reasons.
Now, it's never a good idea to take counsel of one's fears, but to some of us, things seem just a little too quiet. And it's food for thought when you realize that the only real civic buttress against what may be an economic juggernaut of desperate investors is a loose federation of retired people with good intentions but limited resources.
One can only hope that innovative minds can bill Key West as a clean and pleasant place where you can get around without using a lot of fossil fuel. And at the same time realize that preservation of our neighborhoods, with emphasis on maintaining pleasant living spaces, is essential for our long range future.