Surging Housing Costs, Property Taxes Pull Down Florida’s Growth

It appears that the Sunshine State is losing some of its sparkle. Florida’s population grew slower in the year ending July 2007 than any year this decade, according to Census Bureau data released this week. More retirees, long the staple of Florida’s growth, are looking elsewhere, scared away by surging housing costs, including insurance and property taxes.

Couple that with road congestion, low wages and the lingering memories from two devastating hurricane seasons, and the state apparently has started to look less like paradise.

Florida gained just 35,000 people from elsewhere in the country this year, the lowest number since the Census Bureau began breaking down the migration numbers in 1990. It also marks the first time in at least 17 years that Florida added more people from other countries (88,111) than from other states.

Overall, Florida slipped from the ninth-fastest growing state to the 19th. ”This place used to be a dream for the working class,” said Gary Mormino, professor of Florida studies at the University of South Florida. “But those days are over. This is a hard place to be poor.”

The state’s economy remains dependent on population growth, Smith added. Among the most dependent industries: home building. In the boom years, most home builders in the state averaged about 25 homes a year, said Emmett Reed, chief executive of the Florida Home Builders Association. Now those numbers are way down, he said.

The Census Bureau compiles the data by measuring births, deaths and migration into and out of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Vanessa Arellano Doctor

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