KEY WEST, Fla. – Modern, planned development hasn't always appealed to the independent spirits living in the Florida Keys. Hurricane Irma may force the laid-back islands' landscape to change.
Mobile homes and recreational vehicles have long served as affordable housing in the island chain. But those structures didn't survive Irma's 130 mph winds and storm surge.
The losses hit people crucial to Keys tourism: service industry and blue collar workers priced out of expensive Key West homes or newer structures meeting Florida's stringent building codes.
There's already talk about replacing the 7,500 trailers and RVs lost to Irma with more permanent types of housing.
That worries U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. The Florida Republican said on the Senate floor last week that recovery from Irma threatens to "fundamentally alter the character" of the Keys.