David Dunn-Rankin

David Dunn-Rankin

One hundred years ago, Florida had a population under 1 million. In 1920, our population of just 968,470 placed Florida 32nd in state population. 

In 1920, Florida had fewer residents than Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas or West Virginia.  Just one Florida city, Jacksonville, ranked in the top 100 largest cities in America.

In the past 100 years, Florida’s population has grown from less than 1 million to more than 21 million. From just one urban area in the nation’s top 100 largest metro areas in 1920, we now have seven.  

The MSA area of Miami ranks 7th. Tampa-St. Pete ranks 18th. Orlando ranks 23rd, Jacksonville is 40th. Metro Sarasota-Bradenton ranks 72nd. Metro Ft. Myers-Naples ranks 76th. Metro Lakeland-Polk ranks 81st.

Predictions are Florida will be over 30 million in population in just 20 years. Wow. Are you proud of Florida’s growth – or are you sad?

Would you rather Florida still be more like West Virginia and Iowa?

What will central Florida look like when we are one giant metropolis from Tampa to Orlando? In 20 years, Lake County will approach half a million residents. Polk may be a county close to a million people. Highlands county will be larger.

Is that much growth good?

The secret sauce to Florida’s boom was immigration. About 1,000 new “immigrants” still cross Florida’s borders to move here every day. Is all that moving down to Florida good for those of us already here? 

We are attracting two types of immigrants to Florida. The upper-class retiree behind the golf course security gate is an immigrant from colder states like Ohio and New York. Many of the working-class people who serve the upper-class retiree are immigrants too, and while some come from Ohio, many come from other countries.

For every golf course community home in Florida, we need to build a working-class home someplace. Someone is going to mow the upper-class retiree’s lawn, clean their house, service their air conditioning, clean their pool, wait their table at the restaurant and be the nurses this age group relies on. Where should working-class housing be located? 

Most coastal counties have created new zoning for plenty of nice new golf course communities. Many behind a gate with a security guard. On the other hand, most coastal counties have not permitted a large new working-class neighborhood in over two decades. That segregation of working-class and upper-class is now finding its way into the center of the state.  

Our elected officials are told vocally by many constituents – don’t build affordable homes for working-class people in my neighborhood. Let those working-class people live elsewhere. Anywhere else. Just Not In My Backyard. NIMBY.

Many of us say we want diversity in Florida, just not where we live. Very few “trailer parks,” or perhaps you prefer the term “active lifestyle communities,” have been permitted in the last 20 years. These homes are affordable for lower income working families and lower income retirees.

But most people don’t want a trailer park in their neighborhood. They say “undesirable types.” It would affect the value of our house. Those people don’t pay property taxes on their trailer home and are asking the rest of us to make up the difference.  

How does Florida build sustainable communities with a blend of working class and upper class regularly mixing together? Is a mixing together a better community to live in?

How quickly do we want to grow? What do we want Florida and our communities to be like in 20 years? Now is the time to make those plans.

Share your thoughts: David@D-R.Media.