Florida has long billed itself as the best place to call home – a land of warm weather, beautiful natural resources, low taxes, and an affordable cost of living. But the last part of that equation is under threat from rising housing costs, and Floridians are feeling the squeeze. At a time when people agree about virtually nothing, nearly 9 out of 10 Floridians agree that affordable housing is a significant or very significant problem, a new Sachs Media poll has found.
Florida’s recent growth is unprecedented – and it isn’t slowing down. In the 10 years between 2010 and 2020, Florida grew by more than 2.7 million people. That’s the equivalent of adding a Los Angeles or a Chicago to a state that was already one of the nation’s most populous.
And while Florida’s appeal is nothing new, the COVID pandemic changed the calculus by ushering in a new dynamic where workers could earn big paychecks from employers in high-wage, high-tax states – but work remotely from the land of sunshine, sandals, and no personal income tax. That meant they could cash out the value of an expensive home in a state like New York, where the median home price is nearly double that of Florida, and come south with a wad of cash and a bigger paycheck.
Florida voters understand that part of the problem: According to the Sachs Media survey, 44% blame the lack of affordable housing on too many people moving to Florida. They’re not wrong: Between July 2020 and July 2021, Florida saw the biggest net migration from other states since 2005. And for the first time in 40 years, at the end of 2022 Florida also surpassed New York for total number of jobs – and that trend shows no signs of slowing down.
But Floridians also get that it’s more complicated than that, with approximately half of those surveyed laying the blame on inflation (55%), overdevelopment of higher-end homes and apartment communities (49%), and lack of developer interest in building affordable housing (49%).
Policymakers have sought to address these housing challenges with renewed programs that provide down payment assistance or home hardening grants, but the issues persist. The dual threats of skyrocketing insurance rates and more frequent and fierce hurricanes also has an impact on driving up costs for homeowners and renters alike.
For an overwhelming number of Florida voters, this problem is not just theoretical – it has affected them personally. Among Floridians who rent their homes, nearly 2 in 3 (65%) say they’ve attempted to find a new place to rent in the past 18 months, including 78% of those younger than 45. Yet just 27% say they were able to successfully find a new rental home within their budget.
And that is taking a toll on their lifestyle:
- 61% say they increased their budget and are spending more than they feel they can afford on housing;
- 48% are staying where they are and not moving;
- 31% settled for a home that didn’t meet their main criteria;
- 25% moved to a location farther away or less convenient;
- 17% moved in with family or friends; and
- 11% found a roommate to offset costs.
Like Florida residents, the state’s lawmakers also recognize that the problem of affordable housing is complex and will require a multi-pronged approach. Last month, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo released a wide-ranging bill to attack the problem through tax incentives for developers, more funding for existing housing programs, rebates on building materials, and encouragement for local governments to offer their own local property tax incentives.
That approach was met with support among Republicans, who hold strong majorities in the Florida House and Senate, but criticism from Democrats, who called it “trickle-down economics.” According to the Sachs Media survey, Floridians are also divided on how to fix the problem.
While Floridians may not agree on solutions, they do agree on the need for them – with 63% holding state leaders responsible and 55% looking to local leaders to solve the affordable housing crisis.
The Sachs Media survey of 500 Florida voters was conducted via a random sample of the Florida Voter File from January 29-31, 2023. The margin of error is +/- 4.2% at a 95% confidence level. Results are representative of Florida voters in terms of age, race, gender, political affiliation, and region of the state. You can view the full results here.
Michelle Ubben is the President and CEO of Sachs Media.
This article was first published in City and State