Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Please don't move to Florida
There are gazillions of home foreclosures in Florida. In Lehigh Acres, near Fort Myers, hundreds of people are standing in bread lines at Faith Lutheran Church. According to the New York Times, homes in Lehigh Acres "are selling at 80 percent off their peak prices. Only two years after there were more jobs than people to work them, fast-food restaurants are laying people off or closing. Crime is up, school enrollment is down, and one in four residents received food stamps in December..."
There has been an explosion of foreclosures in Lee County, home of Lehigh Acres. In March of 2007, the unemployment rate was 3.5 percent. By November of 2008 it was 9.8 percent and is no doubt higher now.
Things are much the same in what was just a short time ago the fastest growing city in the country -- Port St. Lucie. In 2007, the Port St. Lucie area was booming - jobs and wages were up and home construction was booming. Today, Port St. Lucie is a shell of itself. Construction is down by 70 percent, unemployment is at 10 percent and one in every 113 homes is in foreclosure.
It is the same situation in Marion county, where unemployment has also gone past the 10 percent mark. Houses on the market sit for months with nobody even looking at them.
Florida now leads the nation in job losses. It is in second place as per mortgage foreclosures. Florida now has the 9th highest unemployment rate in the country. In terms of gross domestic product, Florida (which was number one in 2005) is now ranked 47th. The state is paying bills with money it doesn't have. Alex Sink, the chief financial officer, says "We writing checks like crazy and the money isn't coming in."
Like the rest of the country, Florida's been living in a fantasy land, dependent upon well-heeled retirees moving to the state to buy homes and products, and on the old standby - tourism. Thus, hooters and rooters have cried the more people the better, even though anyone with half a brain has known for years that our ecology cannot support the kind of growth we've been experiencing, even without an economic crisis.
So maybe there's a silver lining in the economic downturn. Maybe Florida can rid itself of its Chamber of Commerce mentality and Disney World optimism, and make the changes necessarily to ensure its long-term survival. This will involve fewer people moving to the state, more taxes, more attention paid to the environment and the damage it has sustained, more production of real goods, immediate work on the state's infrastructure, better education, and more.
I know, it's a dream. It's also unlikely to happen with the Republicans in control of the State House. But you can help. If you're thinking about moving to Florida, don't: For your sake and ours.