Florida Needs Affordable Housing, And More Of It, UF Reports Shows

October 16, 2000

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida’s housing is relatively inexpensive compared with other states, but a new University of Florida study shows that the Sunshine State’s burgeoning service sector is having more and more difficulty paying the rent and mortgage.

Nearly one in three Florida households pays more than it can afford for housing, according to the report prepared by UF’s Shimberg Center for Affordable Housing. For homeowners alone, that share is 22 percent, but the number jumps for renters, with 44 percent spending beyond their means for housing, the study shows.

“Florida has a substantial housing affordability problem,” said Robert Stroh, director of the Shimberg Center, part of UF’s Rinker School of Building Construction. “It seems to be related to the relatively low-wage service sector employment that is common in many metropolitan areas.”

The center’s associate director, Marc Smith, and research associate William O’Dell prepared “The State of Florida’s Housing, 2000,” the first in what is planned as a series of annual reports. It is scheduled to be sent next week to state legislators and members of the housing industry.

Smith said Florida’s housing is affordable relative to that of other states when comparing average incomes and housing prices. But when housing costs consume more than 30 percent of household income, which often is the case for lower-income families, affordability goes out the window, he said. The largest share of Florida’s 6 million households — about 20 percent — earns less than $20,000 a year, the report shows.

Service workers such as custodians, office employees and firefighters need affordable rental units in cities, but Stroh said there also is a need in rural areas, mainly for farm workers.

Another trend identified in the report is that the state’s population is booming at such a rate that by 2010, Florida will need 4 million more housing units. While new housing definitely is needed, Smith said, houses built about 40 years ago need attention, too.

“Parts of the housing stock are aging and hitting the point when we need to start thinking about rehabilitation and renovation,” Smith said.

Stroh said the report will be useful for anybody who has influence on, or is affected by, housing construction, since it establishes a common understanding of the quality and quantity of Florida’s housing.

“We would like to think that actions of builders, developers, community planners and legislators can be based on this common, centralized source of information that everyone agrees to,” Stroh said, adding that it also can help the housing industry meet market needs.

“We’ll help the housing delivery system identify and respond to consumers’ housing needs better,” he said. “We’ll understand the demands of the people based on their characteristics.”

Data for the report came from various state agencies. Renter information was taken from 1990 U.S. Census counts and the researchers’ current estimates. Affordability was determined by UF’s Florida Affordable Housing Needs Assessment report. UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research supplied population projection numbers, and property appraiser reports were used for supply and pricing information.

Smith said the report is the most complete summary available on the status of Florida’s housing.

“It’s a long-term look at where we might be heading and a snapshot of where we are today,” Smith said.

The report will be sent to Florida home builders associations, legislative offices and the Florida Association of Realtors, which gave partial support for its preparation.