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Robert Trigaux

U.S. love for Florida waning? Who knew?



WesleychapelhousingWake up and good morning. Is Florida's longstanding allure waning? As Floridians, we already know that answer. Heck yeah. But a new Associated Press analysis is out today that decides to asks us again anyway with this opening line: Is the love affair outsiders have with Florida losing its zest?

Maybe this 2008 photo of mostly unsold town homes in Pasco County tells us all we need to know (photo by Mike Pease of the St. Petersburg Times). But there is some meat to today's AP story:

"A drop in driver's license applications from out-of-state residents certainly suggests they've cooled to the Sunshine State's charms. The number of applications from outsiders has tumbled 30 percent during the past five years -- dropping from more than 585,000 in 2003 to about 410,000 in 2008, according to an analysis by The Associated Press."

According to AP, New Yorkers snubbed Florida the most lately, 34,000 fewer applicants coming from what has long been Florida's No. 1 feeder state. That's a decline of almost 50 percent. The next biggest drop came from New Jersey, with 11,000 fewer applicants. The AP story even offers some theories why this is happening:

"The recession. The awful housing market. Hurricanes. High insurance costs. Battered retirement funds. And, perhaps, the end of the '9-11 effect,' which demographer Jan Vink said caused more people to move out of New York to Florida after the terrorism attacks in 2001. That migration spike peaked in 2005, but Vink isn't sure what has caused it to taper off."

Here's why it tapered off. First, 9-11 is now more than seven and a half years old, so small wonder it's not scaring people out of the Big Apple region. Second, Florida's recession, with a few exceptions, is a lot worse than elsewhere in the country, so why would people flock here at this time? Third, all those New Yorkers and Jersey folks are in the same pickle we're in here: They can't sell their homes! And fourth -- the most critical impediment -- is that Florida's housing market has yet to find a price bottom. Few people will buy homes here when sales prices still show double-digit declines in home values year after year. We're getting close to the bottom but it's yet to arrive.

This Venture blog explored the recent waning migration into Florida in a posting in December. And anyone who's paid attention to the news knows there's been ample evidence and coverage of Florida's shifting migration and population  patterns. The St. Petersburg Times noted it a year ago when University of Florida researchers said Florida's population is increasing at the slowest pace in 30 years and would put a damper on economic growth.

And this December 2007 story in the Times, citing Census Bureau figures, said Florida gained just 35,000 people from elsewhere in the country in '07, the lowest number since the Census Bureau began breaking down the migration numbers in 1990. It also marked the first time in at least 17 years that Florida added more people from other countries (88,111) than from other states.

Let's face it folks, we're talking about COL: Cost of Living. Outsiders loved us when they could move to Florida and buy a comfortable home for $85,000 and pay little for insurance, electricity and water. When all those prices soared, love turned to a more modest affection.

Still, we're not out of the game. A 2009 Pew Research study (PDF) says Tampa ranks among the public’s 10 most popular big cities, which also include: Orlando, San Antonio, Denver, San Diego, Seattle, San Francisco, Phoenix, Portland and Sacramento.

Robert Trigaux, Times business columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:24am]


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