Despite all the talk of hurricanes and skyrocketing insurance and property taxes, Florida is still gaining an average of more than 1,000 people a day.
Taxes, in fact, are one reason Dawn Villone moved to Lakewood Ranch from California last summer. A 42-year-old business owner, she pays less in taxes here than she did in California -- and she can afford more home in Florida, as well. "The housing here is nearly half of what it cost in Santa Barbara," she says. "Everything is a lot more affordable here." Is she worried about hurricanes? Not so much. "California has earthquakes, and the Midwest has tornados," she says. "It's all perspective."
Still, researchers say it's too soon to tell that Florida's growth won't be affected by concerns over taxes, insurance, housing costs and hurricanes. Scott Cody, a BEBR demographer, says we're still a few years away from knowing for sure, particularly in determining the impact of the 2004 and 2005 storm seasons. In Georgia, often mentioned as a place to which Floridians are moving, the only evidence is anecdotal. Judy Hadley, a statistical research analyst with Georgia's Office of Planning and Budget, says she hasn't seen any statistical evidence that would support an accelerated Florida-to-Georgia migration. "But there's a lag factor in getting the numbers," she says. "It's not unusual for me to get data a year and a half or two years after the actual date."
"Everything is a lot more affordable here," says recent Santa Barbara, Calif., transplant Dawn Villone, with son Nicholas, 9. "California has earthquakes, and the Midwest has tornadoes. It's all perspective."
Smith thinks the health of the nation's economy has more potential, anyway, for altering growth than do taxes, insurance or storms. "Going back 30 to 40 years, we've seen that migration tends to slow down during recessions. The population increase dropped from more than 400,000 people a year in the early 1970s to less than 200,000 a year in the mid-1970s. We also saw declines in the early 1980s and early 1990s," Smith says. Overall, demographic trends should continue to favor Florida growth. "The Baby Boomers are hitting retirement age, and even if you have these higher property taxes and higher insurance rates, there are simply more people out there to move here," Denslow says. "And many of these Baby Boomers are very affluent."