Make us your home page
Instagram
Column | Robert Trigaux

Challenges big for Florida as exodus no longer anecdotal

I've got Tampa Bay friends, boomers mostly, who became empty nesters only to find themselves laid off from once-respectable, sustaining jobs.

Now they worry their savings won't keep up with their living expenses. They cast about for alternative, not-too-cold places to live. Tennessee — one of the nearby states aggressively wooing Floridians with "cheap" land, lakefront promises and smiling pitchmen like Eric "Ponch" Estrada of the old CHiPS TV show — seems as popular a place as any to resettle.

Texas also gets attention because its economy is relatively strong, housing prices have not swooned much and there are some jobs there.

The Florida exodus is no longer anecdotal.

As reported this week by St. Petersburg Times reporter James Thorner, a soon-to-be-unveiled report from the University of Florida shows the state lost 50,000 people from April 2008 to April 2009.

It's the first time since 1946 that Florida has been a net population loser.

That's quite a sea change from the boilerplate line — "A thousand people a day are moving to Florida" — cooked up in the heady 1980s. State leaders preached it well after it was no longer true.

Florida has avoided a big hurricane this season only to suffer a Category 5 economic howler. A drop in our population is like a day without sunshine, right?

Some in Florida will read these demographics and rejoice that, momentarily, the state gets a break from more sprawl, endless shopping centers and thicker traffic.

Some in Florida whose economic well-being relies on the next new resident, and then the next new resident, will lament. They are cities, developers, power companies, public school systems and, yes, newspapers that need new blood in order to expand.

St. Petersburg's Progress Energy Florida, in its second-quarter report, said it lost 8,000 customers. And Miami-based Florida Power & Light reported a decline of 16,000 in the same period ended June 30. That's 24,000 fewer Florida households just between those two utilities.

What else is driving the moving van departures? Surely those here who are "underwater" because they owe more on their homes than they can be sold for.

Bankers call it negative equity. It is plague in the state.

In Miami-Dade and Broward counties, 47 percent of all single-family homeowners were underwater as of June 30. In the Tampa Bay area, that percentage is lower.

But even nationally, 23 percent, or more than one in every five, of single-family homes with mortgages are underwater, according to Zillow Real Estate Market Reports.

Discouraged by years of falling home prices and the prospect of making hefty payments on an increasingly worthless asset, many Florida residents are walking away from their debts. Or they are trying to hold on, often face foreclosure, then leave.

Now demographic experts swear on a stack of AARP invitations that Florida's stumble is temporary.

They insist the sheer size of the retiring baby boomer wave will replenish hungry Florida and resurrect the Sunshine State's "thousand people" mantra.

That's the challenge ahead. We've got issues galore that won't be solved by another rising tide of older folks.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at trigaux@sptimes.com.

Challenges big for Florida as exodus no longer anecdotal 08/12/09 [Last modified: Thursday, August 13, 2009 7:45am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Legalized medical marijuana signed into law by Rick Scott

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

    Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation on Friday that legalizes medical marijuana in Florida.
  2. Line of moms welcome Once Upon A Child to Carrollwood

    Business

    CARROLLWOOD — Strollers of all shapes and sizes are lined up in front of the store, and inside, there are racks of children's clothing in every color of the rainbow.

    At Once Upon A Child, you often as many baby strollers outside as you find baby furniture and accessories. It recently opened this location in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser
  3. Pastries N Chaat brings North India cuisine to North Tampa

    Business

    TAMPA — Pastries N Chaat, a new restaurant offering Indian street food, opened this week near the University of South Florida.

    The menu at Pastries N Chaat includes a large variety of Biriyani, an entree owners say is beloved by millions. Photo courtesy of Pastries N Chaat.
  4. 'Garbage juice' seen as threat to drinking water in Florida Panhandle county

    Water

    To Waste Management, the nation's largest handler of garbage, the liquid that winds up at the bottom of a landfill is called "leachate," and it can safely be disposed of in a well that's 4,200 feet deep.

    Three samples that were displayed by Jackson County NAACP President Ronstance Pittman at a public meeting on Waste Management's deep well injection proposal. The sample on the left is full of leachate from the Jackson County landfill, the stuff that would be injected into the well. The sample on the right shows leachate after it's been treated at a wastewater treatment plant. The one in the middle is tap water.
  5. Honda denies covering up dangers of Takata air bags

    Autos

    With just a third of the defective Takata air bag inflators replaced nationwide, the corporate blame game of who will take responsibility — and pay — for the issue has shifted into another gear.

    Honda is denying covering up dangers of Takata air bags. | [Scott McIntyre, New York Times]