Census data shows high cost of living driving lower-income population out of South Florida

by | Aug 14, 2023

  • South Florida’s economy is thriving with companies moving in, job growth, and a rise in real estate prices. However, the population in the region has declined since 2019.
  • Housing affordability is a critical factor, with the median price of homes in Miami-Dade County at $460,000, making less than 17 percent of homes accessible for median-income families.
  • Despite the drop in population, South Florida housing costs keep rising due to prevailing market conditions, including rising interest rates and skyrocketing home values.

Despite strong economic growth in South Florida, a decline in population growth and concerns about housing affordability are casting long shadows on an otherwise thriving region. While the state of Florida is the fastest-growing in the nation, the three-county region encompassing Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach has seen a population decline since 2019.

Recent census estimates reveal that Miami-Dade and Broward counties lost residents in the last three years, with a drop of 1.4 percent and 0.4 percent respectively, whereas Palm Beach County’s population rose by 1.4 percent. The region’s decline contrasts sharply with other counties like Duval and Orange, which grew by 5.9 percent and 4.1 percent respectively.

Housing affordability is central to the complex economic picture. In Miami-Dade County, the median price of homes sold in the first quarter of 2023 reached $460,000, with a median family income of $73,100. This pricing puts less than 17 percent of homes within reach for typical families, according to the National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index.

A shift in demographics is also evident. IRS data shows that newcomers to Miami-Dade County had average gross incomes of over $220,000, while those leaving the county had incomes below $50,000.

The drop in population also means a drop in demand for housing, and that’s showing up, too. According to Jacksonville-based Black Knight, a mortgage data company, mortgage interest rates topped 7% in July 2023 for the first time since November 2022, which is further making housing unaffordable across the nation, but particularly in South Florida. The end result is that new homebuyers seeking mortgages were down 7% month over month in July, reflecting the dampening demand.

Mortgage rate lock activity, a statistic that tracks when homebuyers lock in mortgage rates on a potential home loan, indicates increasing downward pressure on the housing market, with purchase lock counts down 27% year over year and 35% compared to 2019 pre-pandemic levels. Andy Walden, vice president of enterprise research and strategy at Black Knight, noted that the current housing market dynamics were “not conducive to boosting homebuyer origination volumes.”

The rising cost of homes and persisting low inventories could lead to an economic stalemate. Concerns also arise over South Florida’s job growth, which, although strong at 3 percent from June 2022 to June 2023, lags behind other areas like Orlando, Tampa, and Jacksonville.


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