As the cost of living rises in six South Fla. counties, some residents move north to find affordable housing – but data suggests the pace of that exodus is slowing.

MIAMI – The rising cost of living has been driving Miami-Dade residents outward for a decade. Is the tide finally turning?

New projections from real estate group Redfin show that despite another year of outflows among existing residents of Southeastern Florida – driven largely by Miami-Dade County – the pace of the exodus appears to be slowing.

That’s good news for municipal coffers and the taxpayers who feed them.

Neither the state nor regional governments impose income taxes, leaving them dependent on revenues from sales and property taxes to pay for local services. More residents means more revenue – and generally, leaves locals free from property tax increases.

Now, it seems, more locals are staying put.

While Southeastern Florida was still on track to lose more current residents than it gained from elsewhere in the U.S., 2020 saw the area’s lowest “domestic loss” count in years, according to Redfin’s estimate: down 24,000 residents last year, compared with a loss of 39,000 in 2019 and 47,000 in 2018. (The precise Census figure for 2020 are not yet available.)

Redfin’s data is supported by other recent findings from geospatial analytics company Orbital Insight, with analysis by real estate investment firm FCP, which said Miami is now the nation’s third-most-popular destination for those moving amid the pandemic, trailing only Phoenix and Tampa (tied for first) and New York.

“It’s definitely a big slowdown of outflow compared to the past three years,” said Redfin economist Taylor Marr. “And it matches the search data where we’re seeing the strength of the [Southeast Florida] region.”

Redfin’s study looks at seven counties: Broward, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Indian River, Palm Beach and St. Lucie.

Between 2010 and 2019, the area’s overall population in the area grew by some 700,000 residents, to approximately 6.9 million – thanks largely to international immigrants and births. But as foreign migration slowed in recent years, it was replaced by an influx of COVID and tax weary urbanites from places like New York, Chicago and California.

The ongoing influx of new residents brought a dramatic increase in local housing prices – as much as 150% over the past decade – while wages grew only about 17%. As a result, the region lost 107,151 existing residents in the seven counties to other parts of Florida and the rest of the U.S. Orlando and Jacksonville were among the gainers.

Now, the same quality-of-life factors attracting new residents – weather, restaurants, cultural activities – also appear to be keeping locals tethered to the region. Miami has never been more desirable for those who can afford it.

The city’s transformation drew venture capitalist and University of Miami graduate David Goldberg back to the region from New York, where he built his first business. Until recently, trying to do so from Miami wasn’t possible, he said. A decade ago, “there just was not enough talent and not enough capital.”

Still, he kept an eye on South Florida. When coronavirus hit, he moved his Alpaca venture capital fund here and found what he called a “validation of the lifestyle benefits” that the region has long touted.

And yet, for many more long-time locals, Miami’s home price math continues to cut the other way.

“We still don’t have the positive economic indicators that will slow down the moving out of the county in terms of wages and jobs, and especially in terms of housing,” said Maria Ilcheva, Assistant Director of Planning and Operations for the Jorge M. Perez Metropolitan Center at Florida International University. “That’s what’s primarily driving prices up: There is higher demand, but the higher demand is not being driven by local conditions.”

Goldberg says the pieces are in place to reverse the longstanding outflow trend.

“It’s like a flywheel,” he said. “First the investors come, then they attract the talent … we’re starting to see all the things we’d been waiting for.”

The region’s new opportunities didn’t come soon enough for Miami native Juan C. Rodriguez. Rodriguez, then a technician, and his wife moved into a townhome in South Dade in 2011, but he had always considered leaving – “not one for clubs, bars, or things like that,” he said via email. Then, one day in 2018, Rodriguez missed his daughter’s softball practice because of the clog of traffic on the Palmetto Expressway.

“I sat that day at home and opened a beer and started to look through pictures,” Rodriguez wrote. “I saw so many pictures my wife had sent me that I realized I was missing some of the best times of [my family’s] lives,” Rodriguez said. “That is when it sunk in, and hit me hard. Get another job or its time to leave the state.”

He ended up finding work at a commercial supplies dealership in Greenville, S.C., where he is a now a director. The family moved in 2019.

“We sold our townhome in Princeton … for $235,000,” he said. “We just purchased a 4-bedroom, 2.5-bath on one-acre of property for $239,000. How is that not an easy trade off?”

SOURCE: © 2021 Miami Herald. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC. ~ By Rob Wile

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