The Sunshine State was second in population growth a year ago, and most of the gains can be attributed to Central Florida.
Orlando, which had the nation’s fifth-largest increase in terms of pure numbers, led the way for Florida. In total, the metropolitan area grew by more than 60,000 residents.
According to numbers released by the U.S. Census Bureau, about two-thirds of Orlando’s new arrivals came from outside the country. A significant number also came from a natural increase in more births than deaths.
Up to an estimated 2.57 million residents, Orlando was 23rd in overall population in 2017.
“One interesting trend we are seeing this year is that metro areas not among the most populous are ranked in the top 10 for population growth,” Sandra Johnson, a U.S. Census Bureau demographer, said in a news release. “Though no new metro areas moved into the top 10 largest areas, Phoenix, Seattle, Austin, and Orlando all experienced numeric increases in population since 2010, rivaling growth in areas with much larger populations. This trend is consistent with the overall growth we are seeing in the south and the west.”
Tampa trailed Orlando for the most growth in the state, seeing an influx of 51,000 residents. Tampa’s growth, the ninth-largest in the nation, was fueled by new arrivals. About two-thirds of the residents transferred to Tampa from within the U.S.
Smaller areas also saw upticks in population growth. For example, the Lakeland-Winter Haven area increased by 3.2 percent, which was good for fourth-largest growth in the nation, while retirement community The Villages increased by 3.1 percent, enough for the sixth-most growth.
However, the large growth is impacting affordable housing, especially in Orlando.
“I get a lot of people relocating to Orlando, probably more than most,” Orlando real estate agent Bobby Livera told UPI. “Orlando is growing, but income isn’t really.”
According to a recent National Low Income Housing Coalition study, Orlando was ranked first among large metropolitan areas with the most severe shortages of rental homes affordable to extremely low-income households. For every 100 extremely low-income renters, there were only 17 rental units available in Orlando.
Tampa didn’t fare better, ranking ninth and only having 22 affordable rental units per 100 extremely low-income renters.
“We have to create the carrot to entice developers to build more affordable housing options,” said Olan Hill, assistant manager in the planning division of Orange County.
The Sadowski Trust Fund for affordable housing was supposed to be an answer for the issue, but the millions sitting in the trust hasn’t always been used for that.
“The people who are creating the budget or designing the budget can pull from different areas, and the Sadowski Fund just happens to be one of the likely areas they can pull from to try to shore up different budgets,” Rep. Rene Plasencia told Spectrum News 13.
State Rep. Anna Eskamani wants to get it back to its intended purpose and filed a bill to repeal Florida’s pre-emption on rent control.
“In addition to protecting the Sadowski Trust Fund, legislators have a responsibility to provide local governments with the tools they need to solve our state’s affordable housing crisis,” Eskamani said in a statement. “HB 6053 is one of those tools. Whether it’s rent control that is place-based, or profession-based, it’s important that local governments have the opportunity to build and evaluate programs that can help solve this crisis.”
According to another National Low Income Housing Coalition study, based on 2018 numbers, Orlando renters make $16.08 per hour but would need an hourly wage of $21.08 to afford a two-bedroom unit. While Tampa renters make more than their Orlando counterparts, the average hourly wage $17.01 is still short of the $20.10 needed to afford a two-bedroom unit.
While the state budget hasn’t been wrapped up, the Florida House is considering a spending plan that would allocate funds to areas damaged by Hurricane Michael. Central Florida would be getting the stiff arm under the proposed plan.
“Orange County, Osceola County, Seminole County is getting crushed by the affordable housing crisis,” State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith said at a House Appropriations Committee meeting. “Reports have ranked us as number one in the nation, in Orlando, for lack of affordable housing, and I support the money that’s going towards the victims of Hurricane Michael, but it’s a false choice to have to pick between recovery for Hurricane Michael victims and funding affordable housing.”
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