The following story, written by Daniel Antonio Miguel, was published by Florida Policy Institute on November 3, 2022.
In recent years, Florida has become one of the least affordable places to live in the nation, making affordable housing one of the top issues impacting Floridians. Unable to keep up with the rising costs of housing, Florida’s working families, communities of color, older adults, and people with disabilities are bearing the brunt of this housing crisis.
Historically, Florida’s favorable weather and subtropical environment has enticed people from all over. While the state’s reputation as a place for leisurely coastal living has made it a popular retirement destination for seniors, Florida has also seen an influx of young, high-earning professionals from states like New York, where the median home price is nearly double that of Florida’s.
The shift to remote work spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this trend and resulted in a workforce migration that put additional strain on the state’s already tight housing market. While individuals from states like New York or California — two states with some of the highest average incomes in the country — may find Florida to be more affordable, everyday Floridians are paid lower wages on average. For this reason, renters in Florida have historically been more cost-burdened than any other state in the nation.
How did this happen? In the span of just two years, median rent prices increased by over 30 percent across the state, from about $1,340 in February 2020 to roughly $1,760 in February 2022. To afford a modest one-bedroom rental home at fair market rent, a person earning $10 per hour (the state’s minimum wage for most of 2022) would need to work 86 hours per week. It should come as no surprise, then, that over 2.1 million Florida households with low income spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing. While Florida’s natural and cultural amenities help maintain the state’s allure, the unsustainable cost of housing puts that desirability at risk and is a threat to the economic prosperity of the state.
Families burdened by economic hardship and unaffordable housing have to make impossible choices on how to allocate their limited income to pay for essential living expenses.
Recognizing the gravity of this issue, and with the generous support and partnership of the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, Florida Policy Institute (FPI) is expanding its scope of work to include affordable housing and community development policy. The organization will dive into the intersection of state, local, and federal policies that impact housing and other services, keeping a particular focus on three Southwest Florida counties (DeSoto, Manatee, and Sarasota) as a case study for informing best practices and policies that can be adapted in communities across Florida. FPI’s goal is to develop innovative and sound policy decisions, rooted in partnerships with local community advocates, that will reduce inequities and help local and state governments meet the critical need for affordable housing in Florida. In the aftermath of the devastation caused by Hurricane Ian, this work is particularly timely, especially for Southwest Florida.
Families burdened by economic hardship and unaffordable housing have to make impossible choices on how to allocate their limited income to pay for essential living expenses. This thwarts the upward mobility of families with low and middle incomes and drives individuals to sacrifice spending on things that are vital to their health, like food or medicine. That is why access to safe and affordable housing is fundamental to Floridians’ long-term physical and mental health, educational attainment, and economic stability. To build and sustain a future in which every person in the Sunshine State has an opportunity to thrive, policymakers must confront housing unaffordability with the seriousness and urgency that it demands. Also, as one of the states at the epicenter of a nationwide housing crisis, Florida has an opportunity to serve as a model for the rest of the country.