Rising Costs and Divisive Politics Has Longtime and Recent Residents Fleeing Florida

There is no doubt that Florida has seen a population boom in recent years, becoming the second-fastest-growing state in the nation, behind Texas, as of July 2023, according to Census Bureau data.

Mortgage application data indicated there were nearly two homebuyers moving to Florida in 2023 for every one leaving, with new residents looking to enjoy sunshine, along with no income tax and lower costs.

However, Census data shows that in 2022 alone, 500,000 people fled the Sunshine State because of soaring insurance costs, a hostile political environment, worsening traffic and extreme weather, according to recent interviews with a dozen former Florida residents.

Jodi Cummings moved to the Palm Beach area from Connecticut in 2021 to work as a private chef.

She left after six months of dealing with Florida’s traffic and heat, and unexpected high costs of car insurance, rent, and food cutting into the no-income-tax “profits.”

 “I thought Florida would be an easier lifestyle, I thought the pace would be a little bit quieter, I thought it would be warmer. I didn’t expect it to be literally 100 degrees at night. It was incredibly difficult to make friends, and it was expensive, very expensive.”

Homeowners insurance rates in Florida rose 42% last year to an average of $6,000 annually, driven by hurricanes and climate change, and car insurance in Florida is more than 50% higher than the national average, according to the Insurance Information Institute. While once seen as an affordable housing market, Florida is now among the more expensive states to buy a home in, with prices up 60% since 2020.

Barb Carter’s move to Florida wasn’t the postcard life she’d envisioned.

After one year, she sold her Florida home at a $40,000, leaving behind the children and grandchildren she’d moved to be closer to.

Carter purchased a manufactured home and faced higher lot rent than expected, a $9,000 armadillo invasion, doubled car insurance, and Hurrican Ian, which took her mobile home roof.

Carter was a self-described middle-of-the-road Republican, but soon learned to keep her political opinions to herself.

But she said the final straw was when she couldn’t find a surgeon to remove a 6-inch tumor from her liver that doctors warned could burst at any moment and lead to life-threatening sepsis. After being passed among doctors, she finally found one willing to remove the tumor. But when she called to schedule the surgery, her calls went unanswered and her messages weren’t returned. After months of trying and fearing for her life, she returned to Kansas to have the procedure done.

Louis Rotkowitz came from New York, but only lasted 2 years.

Rotkowitz got a job there as a primary care physician and his wife took a teaching position, but said it wasn’t enough to be comfortable. “I had a good salary, but we were barely making ends meet. We had zero quality of life,” said Rotkowitz.

Along with the rising costs, Rotkowitz said he generally felt unsafe in the state between the erratic traffic — which resulted in a number of his patients being injured by vehicles — and a state law passed in 2023 that allowed people to carry a concealed weapon without a license.

“Everyone is walking around with guns there,” he said. “I consider myself a conservative guy, but if you want to carry a gun you should be licensed, there should be some sort of process.”

Veronica Blaski only lasted three years.

Her homeowners insurance company threatened to drop her coverage if she didn’t replace her home’s 9-year-old roof, a $16,000 to $30,000 project, and even with a new roof, she was expecting her home insurance rates to double — one neighbor saw their insurance go from $600 a month to $1,200 a month.

As the value of her home increased, so did HOA costs and property taxes. Her insurance agent warned her that the auto insurance policy she carried was expected to double in the next renewal.

The median salary in Florida is among the lowest in the country, according to payroll processor ADP. To afford a home in one of Florida’s more affordable metro areas, like Jacksonville, a homebuyer would need to earn $109,000 a year, around twice as much income as a buyer would have needed just four years ago.

After more than 30 years in the Tampa area, Donna Smith left the state for Pennsylvania in December, with politics and rising insurance costs playing a major role in her decision to leave.

Having grown up in Oklahoma, Smith considered herself a Republican, but as Florida’s politics shifted to the right, she said she began to consider herself a Democrat. It wasn’t until the past several years, though, that politics started to encroach on her daily life — from feuds between neighbors and friends to neo-Nazis showing up at a Black Lives Matter rally in her small town.

Smith relocated to Pennsylvania, and ended up in a county that went for Trump. “I don’t feel it is as oppressive. People don’t wear it on their sleeve like they did in Florida,” she said. “When you walk in a room, you don’t overhear a conversation all the time where people are saying ‘Trump is the best’ or ‘I went to that last rally,’ and they’re telling total strangers while you’re just waiting for your car or something. It was just everywhere.”

Full story at NBC