Sunday, June 19, 2005

THE ST. PETERSBURG TIMES has an interesting article about the souring of the Florida Dream:

The rules Florida once touted to lure vacationers and transplants alike - that inexpensive living made this state a dream without bounds - have changed.

Longtime Floridians are grappling with a harsh new reality. Namely, that small, single-digit increases in wages and government benefits haven't kept up in a land where the costs of housing, insurance, gas and medical benefits have zoomed skyward.

Take 1999 as a base year. Average home prices in the state are up 70 percent since then. Gas prices are up 78 percent. Homeowners insurance up 49 percent, not including the double-digit hikes hitting many policyholders this year.

Nationally, workers paid 72 percent more toward family health insurance policies last year than they did in 1999. Medical costs in Florida rose an average of 10.4 percent each year between 1980 and 2000, making it the fourth fastest-growing state in the country for those expenses, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Through it all, the growth in workers' paychecks has been anemic.
Teachers and police officers in the bay area earned enough to afford a median home here two years ago. Now, their average salaries fall well below the comfortable margin for affording a median-priced home, according to a report expected to be released later this month by the Center for Housing Policy in Washington, D.C.

Barbara Miller, a teacher of severely emotionally disturbed children, recently bought a house in Riverview after finding she couldn't afford a home anywhere near the South Tampa neighborhood where she grew up.

"It's not that we make as horrible salaries as we used to," Miller said of teachers, "but it's not like we keep up with the private sector."
"It used to be it was the janitor at City Hall who needed affordable housing. Now it's the employees at City Hall that need affordable housing. It's the planners, the teachers and the nursing assistants," said Ross, who also is affordable housing director for 1000 Friends of Florida, an environmental group.

"It's hit the low-income, paid professional workforce whose income is not high enough to allow them to afford even a modest home in Florida."

Add to this huge waterbugs invading shopping centers and the new right-to-murder law; and I think I'll stick with the New Jersey Meadowlands.

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