Florida Keys Residential & Luxury Real Estate
Derrick Johnson

BPAS, Marathon and building a new home in the Florida Keys

Buying a new home in the Florida Keys can be expensive. You may figure it will be easier to just buy a vacant piece of land and build your dream home from scratch. I grew up in a vastly different area, and we could just build pretty much whatever we wanted on our land in Ohio. There were some minor items like property line setbacks, utility easements, and connections, but for the most part, we could build immediately.

The Florida Keys is a much different animal when it comes to being able to build. We have only one road in and one road out, which is great for beautiful vistas, but not so good for Hurricane evacuations. Because of this, the State of Florida, Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) has limited the ability for landowners in the Florida Keys to build on their land. More than just the property being located in multiple environmentally sensitive tracts as well as more than a couple endangered species, we also have to deal with the State Mandate to be able to evacuate all the residents of the Florida Keys within 24 hours. The State initiated the Rate of Growth Ordinance (ROGO) and has since limited the number of building rights that are available. Each area of the Florida Keys is different. The upper Keys have a different pool of building rights / Allocations than say Big Pine Key, which is in its own category because of the endangered Key Deer.

Marathon has its own allocations as well because it is a city. The City of Marathon uses a system called BPAS. BPAS is the City’s Building Permit Allocation System which regulates residential development in the City. All new residential structures must obtain a BPAS allocation. There are 2 categories for building rights/allocations. A Market Rate allocation allows you to build a house and sell it for any price you find reasonable. An Affordable housing allocation allows you to build a home but there will be re-sale restrictions on the price to keep the price lower than a typical market rate home. The Affordable restrictions are set by the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

BPAS allocations are awarded two (2) times a year. To be considered for an allocation, a completed application must have entered BPAS no later than 5:00 PM on the day before the start of the Allocation Period. The dates of the Allocation Periods and the number of allocations issued for each are below.

Allocation Period 1
July 14 to January 13
Market Rate = 12 Affordable = 3

Allocation Period 2 – January 14 to July 13
Market Rate = 12 Affordable = 3

Total – Market Rate = 24 Affordable = 6

The proposed ranking of applications in BPAS is now available.

Click here to view the BPAS Attachment A, Market Rate List.

Click here to view the BPAS Attachment B, Affordable List.

There will be a public hearing regarding these rankings at and must be approved by City Council to become final.

There is more to it than just finding a property as you can see. Once you have the property, you apply for the allocation and after waiting for a long time, you may or may not be able to get a building right. What else are you to do? There is an alternative, some folks have a property with a building right and want to keep the land, but do not want to build on it. They can sell that building right and you can transfer it to another property inside the city of Marathon. The intangible building right would be subject to a transfer fee which can be quite steep, up to $20,000. There are plenty of regulations on the transfer sites that would need to be met as well. It does allow you to build your house quicker and guarantees that you will have the ability to build.

Buying a parcel in our little slice of paradise can be imposing. Having a professional on your side to help you navigate the system and make sure you have all your ducks in a row is what I’m here for. If you’re thinking of buying or selling a piece of land in the Florida Keys, give me a call to help you make it a successful venture!