Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Census data offer clear proof of housing hangover in Hernando County

Finally, the U.S. Census Bureau has been able to confirm what we know from our shrinking home values and our throbbing heads: The hangover from the speculative housing market in Hernando County was brutal.

The proof, in recently released 2010 census data, is a subcategory of dwellings called "other vacant." This is a catch-all term for houses that are neither winter residences nor vacation homes. They aren't the seasonally empty quarters of migrant workers. They aren't even up for sale or rent.

If a bank has filed for foreclosure but a judge hasn't yet ruled that the house can be sold at the courthouse, the bureau drops the property into the "other vacant" category. When homeowners walk away from houses and mortgages but the banks haven't caught up with them yet, those dwellings, too, are classified as "other vacant." So are houses bought with mortgages that changed hands so often that banks temporarily lost track of them.

In short, if the Census Bureau offers a sure indicator of an out-of-control housing market, it's in this one miscellaneous category.

I bring this up because when the first round of census data was released in March, Hernando didn't look all that bad — or at least it didn't look conclusively bad.

Its total percentage of vacant homes, 15.1 percent, was lower than the statewide rate of 17.5 percent. And though some reporters interpreted this to mean that nearly one in five houses in the state had been abandoned, that was just not true, Hernando County's demographic planner, David Miles, said at the time.

In Florida, there have always been lots of second homes counted as vacant, he said. We wouldn't get a true picture of how many houses were really abandoned until the bureau produced more data.

Well, now it has, and that 15.1 percent doesn't look so reassuring.

Of all the categories of vacant housing, the healthiest is "seasonal dwelling unit." These homes are still owned by someone — a snowbird, typically —who cares for the property and is in town part of the year.

Statewide, about 42 percent of vacant houses are in this category. In some nearby counties, such as Sarasota, Manatee and Sumter (home of the Villages mega-development), well over half of the vacant homes are. In Hernando, less than one-third are.

Having a large percentage of vacant homes up for sale isn't a good sign either, especially considering how many foreclosed houses are on the market. In Hernando, the rate of vacancies in the "for sale" category is nearly 19 percent, considerably higher than the percentage statewide and higher than in any of the dozen other counties that Miles looked at in western and central Florida.

Also on the high side, of course, is the percentage of homes in that dreaded "other vacant" category. Of those dozen nearby counties, only Marion's rate is slightly higher than Hernando's 28.4 percent.

You've seen the images that usually accompany stories about the housing mess in Florida: weed-choked lawns, broken windows, pools half-filled with algae-green water.

In fact, around here, you can see these properties for yourself in Royal Highlands and parts of Spring Hill where the speculation was rampant.

Now that we know all these neighborhoods are hot spots for "other vacant" properties, the picture is more complete.

Census data offer clear proof of housing hangover in Hernando County 09/06/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 6, 2011 8:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Review / photos: Sunset Music Festival brings Major Lazer, safety upgrades to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa


    Somewhere beyond the barricades and mountainous LED stages of the Sunset Music Festival, there had to be worry. There had to thousands of parents in parking lots and empty kitchens, anxiously distracting their minds, every now and then checking their phones.

    Major Lazer headlined the Sunset Music Festival on May 27, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
  2. 24-year-old man charged with murder in shooting at Andrea Cove Motel

    LARGO — Pinellas sheriff's officers arrested a 24-year-old transient man Saturday in connection with a homicide at the Andrea Cove Motel in unincorporated Largo.

  3. Photo gallery: Calvary Christian rolls to state title


    View a gallery of images from Calvary Christian's defeat of Pensacola Catholic 11-1 in six innings Saturday night at Hammond Stadium in Ft. Myers for the Class 4A title.

    Calvary Christian players circle up on the field before the FHSAA class 4A baseball championship against Pensacola Catholic on Friday May 27, 2017 at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla. Calvary scored 6 runs in the first inning, and had 7 hits.
  4. Two girls found safe after being reported missing in New Port Richey

    UPDATE: Both girls were found safe Saturday night, police said.

  5. IT failure blamed for British Airways cancellations (w/video)


    LONDON — British Airways canceled all flights from London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports on Saturday as a global IT failure upended the travel plans of tens of thousands of people on a busy U.K. holiday weekend.

    Passengers wait at a British Airways check-in desk after the airport suffered an IT systems failure Saturday at London''s Gatwick Airport. [Associated Press]