The following editorial was published in The Daily Sun on Sept 18, 2023.
OUR POSITION: Retirees who aren’t fortunate to have comfortable retirement income and who live on fixed incomes are as much in need of affordable housing as those in our state’s workforce.
Florida is a top landing spot for retirees. More than one out of five Florida residents, 21.6% are over the age of 65, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The state’s warm weather and senior-friendly tax structure will continue to draw retirees to the Sunshine state. Florida doesn’t tax income, Social Security payments and pensions. We also don’t have a state estate tax and offer property tax exemptions and discounts for seniors.
But rising housing costs, the lack of affordable housing (including for seniors) and stubbornly higher inflation statewide compared to the rest of the country could make Florida less inviting to retirees.
The past two Consumer Price Indexes showed inflation eased to 3% in June and 3.2% in July after a wave of high prices after the pandemic.
But prices are higher in Florida with inflation coming in at 6.9% in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale metro area in June and 5.9% in the Tampa Bay area in July, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
We’ve seen housing prices and apartment rents increase significantly in recent years.
In 2011, the median price for a single family home was $131,700 statewide, according to the Florida Realtors Group. For July 2023, Florida Realtors reported the median sales price was $415,000.
The story for apartment rents is the same and it is impacting more lower and fixed income seniors. The statewide median rent is $2,208 per month, according to an August report from Rent.com. The costs are even more in the Miami area. That compares to a $2,200 national figure.
In 2020, the median rent for a Florida apartment was just over $1,200 per month, according to iPropertyManagement.com.
We don’t need to remind some longer-term Floridians of what rents were in the ‘good ol’ days.’
Those days are gone.
And so are inventories of affordable housing for seniors and workers ‘who don’t make bank’ to live in popular areas or our well-developed barrier islands (better known as our beaches).
There is a concerted push from Tallahassee as well as local governments — including in southwest Florida — to bolster affordable and workforce housing stock.
That is needed — on all fronts.
Florida’s 55-plus communities have long excluded younger homebuyers and renters. That has magnified the need for affordable housing for younger workers employed in tourism, service and other sectors.
We also need a diversity of housing and housing price points for remote workers who saw their numbers grow and solidify coming out of the pandemic. Florida’s climate, recreational assets and tax climate all work in favor with remote workers.
We need to make sure our housing inventory and price points work for remote workers — not $3,000 per month luxury units in Miami.
That takes some interest and commitment from the private marketplace as well as finding creative ways at the community and regional levels to encourage those types of developments.
The same goes for seniors.
Housing advocates, local government and developers need to come together and figure out the new landscape and new normal for senior housing in Florida.
That could mean finding new paths in some communities (or in some areas threatened by more intense hurricanes) moving away from 55-plus mobile and manufactured home parks. It could mean new types of home offerings, new creative communities that are inviting to seniors and remote workers and finding ways to get developers interested in these projects.
Otherwise, Florida could find itself losing out to other less expensive destinations.