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Friday's Afternoon Update

Florida is currently packed with vacant homes

LendingTree ranked the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan areas from highest to lowest vacancy rates. According the the study, Florida vacancy rates are well above the national average; three Florida cities top the list. 17 percent of homes in the Miami metro area are vacant, 16 percent in Orlando, and 15 percent in Tampa Bay. Jacksonville metro was also in the top ten at 13 percent vacancy. Though high vacancy rates might mean an area is enduring socioeconomic hardship, they can also suggest suggest an area is being targeted by investors or is a vacation hotspot--the latter being the case in the Sunshine State. “... Florida is a popular destination for homeowners to buy secondary residences. These types of residences often remain unused throughout most of the year, with their owners only living in them during select times, like winter. This means they count as vacant in our data.”

More from Creative Loafing and Lending Tree.

Florida Senate poised to support home vegetable gardens

The Senate could approve a measure aimed at preventing local governments from regulating homeowners’ vegetable gardens. Sen. Rob Bradley introduced the bill after a Florida appellate court upheld a ruling that Miami Shores could prohibit residents from growing vegetables in their front yards and fine them if they violate that ordinance. “The law of the land right now is local governments do in fact have this power to go onto a person’s property where they are growing food for themselves and tell them to stop, and if they don’t, fine them,” Bradley said. “That offends me to my core, in that it’s a basic freedom to do what this bill protects.” Bradley pointed out the bill doesn’t apply to homeowner agreements or deed-restricted communities or any situation where private agreements between landowners are in place. More from WPTV and the Tallahassee Democrat

Florida Trend Exclusive
The 'Grater' Good

The story of the Phiel building (known locally as the "cheese grater," after its metal facade added in the 1960's) - and the impact its history has had on downtown St. Petersburg - offers a glimpse at questions that must be asked when new economic vitality gives rise to conversations about a city's future. More from Florida Trend.

Florida ranks number one for fraud complaints

A Federal Trade Commission report ranks Florida number one in the nation for consumer fraud complaints. According to the report, the rise in complaints from an increase in government imposter scams, where scammers posing as employees of Social Security Administration or IRS told victims to "reactivate" their account or asked for personal payment information. Florida Gulf Coast University professor of justice studies, Pamela Seay says, "Scammers know you’re scared of the government… Scammers know that you will believe the government is trying to come after you for something, even if they’re not." Losses from fraud in Florida topped $80 million in 2018. More from the WFTS.

Bill reducing Medicaid ‘retro-eligibility’ faces opposition

A measure to permanently cut retroactive Medicaid eligibility from 90 days to less than 30 to save Florida’s $26 billion Medicaid program a projected $103 million a year is set come before the Senate’s Appropriations Committee. Last year, legislators trimmed retroactive eligibility for a limited period. Sen. Aaron Bean, the bill's sponsor, says the new measure will make last year’s temporary policy change permanent. Democrat Senators Kevin Rader and Gary Farmer have filed comments opposing the bill. The Southern Poverty Law Center Legal Fund, Disability Rights Florida, Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops have also spoken out against the measure. More from Watchdog.org.

On the Road Again
Daytona’s still a bike town, but not the ‘Motorcycle Capital of Florida’

 Deb James didn’t hesitate when asked to name the “Motorcycle Capital of Florida.” When faced with the impromptu Daytona Bike Week quiz, the visitor from Terre Haute, Indiana offered: “That’s obviously Daytona.” A good guess, but no. Based on actual registration data available from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the Motocycle Capital of Florida is undoubtedly Monroe County, home of the Florida Keys.

And it ain’t close.

» More from the Daily Commercial.


Florida's Most Influential Business Leaders
Frank Morsani, who grew up in Arkansas, served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War and worked his way through college as a mechanic. He ultimately owned some 30 car dealerships around the country. Among his charitable contributions is $20 million he and his wife, Carol, gave to USF Health in 2011. The school’s medical college now bears his name. Read More.