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Why some retired Floridians are returning to work

Published on April 22, 2024 at 9:49 am

Historically, Florida has advertised itself as an affordable place to retire. But with rising costs of living, some retirees have returned to the workforce out of necessity.

“People retire to Florida with expectations. They think they’ve got what they need. But time passes, their resources dwindle, they have emergencies, health costs, and then there’s inflation. And they find themselves sometimes in desperate straits,” Joe Byrnes, a reporter for Central Florida Public Media, said Friday on The Florida Roundup. “For very low, for low-income people, that can be devastating. For people starting out from a better point, they may have to go back to work.”

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Tampa Bay Times reporter Lauren Peace, who wrote about this issue, said some challenges facing Florida are an influx of newer residents and natural disasters. These have caused housing prices, insurance rates and home maintenance costs to rise.

“And then the last piece of it is, following the Surfside collapse, legislators passed a bill to make sure that condos and homeowners associations had a reserve pile of funds to do building maintenance and repairs. And so in a really short period of time, we saw not only the spike in homeowners insurance costs, but also pretty hefty spikes in homeowners association fees,” Peace said on The Florida Roundup.

Median rent, condo and single-family home prices have also risen, according to Anne Ray. She’s the manager of the Florida Housing Data Clearinghouse at the University of Florida’s Shimberg Center for Housing Studies.

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“If you think about it, a typical Social Security income, fixed income is ($1,800) or $1,900 a month. That’s eating up almost your whole check if you’re getting a median rent. I think the other thing that makes people vulnerable is that people on fixed incomes need predictable housing costs. You’ve heard already about property insurance and condo fees going up,” Ray said on The Florida Roundup.

A recent WFSU report showed how more seniors are struggling to keep their housing due to rising rent and insurance costs. People on fixed incomes are especially impacted.

At the same time, Byrnes said there’s an influx of people coming into retirement communities. Florida received about 11% of all state-to-state retirement moves in 2023, according to U.S. Census Bureau data analyzed by HireAHelper.

“But there’s reporting that current Florida retirees are actually looking into leaving the state because of those housing costs. So a lot of those communities are bringing in new retirees, but losing some of the older ones,” Byrnes said.

Ray said Florida’s growth is an opportunity for the state to build a variety of housing.

“Oftentimes, people might be forced into a unit that’s more expensive than they can afford, because it’s too big. And that’s all that’s out there. So I think one thing we need to think about is how to build homes that are smaller, or smaller apartments in units — most older households are made up of just one or two people — in places that are accessible for people with disabilities, and also thinking about how we weatherize and make that housing climate safe,” Ray explained.

She also noted rental assistance programs seniors can take advantage of.

“Something we have in Florida that’s special is our SHIP program, which is state housing funding that comes to local governments so they can meet local needs. And many times those are going to individual homeowners for rehab to make homes more accessible, to build ramps for weatherization. And typically a lot of those funds will go to older, long-standing homeowners.”

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author image Gabriella is WUSF’s digital news producer. She began her career at FIU's student newspaper, PantherNOW, and worked her way up to opinion director before graduating in 2020 with a bachelor's degree in communication. Since then, she also has worked as a social media producer and video editor. In 2021, she became a writer for WSVN 7News in Miami, eventually becoming one of the station's associate producers. She is the proud child of Ecuadorian immigrants and lived her whole life in South Florida before moving to Tampa in 2023 and now WUSF.
author image Gabriella is WUSF’s digital news producer. She began her career at FIU's student newspaper, PantherNOW, and worked her way up to opinion director before graduating in 2020 with a bachelor's degree in communication. Since then, she also has worked as a social media producer and video editor. In 2021, she became a writer for WSVN 7News in Miami, eventually becoming one of the station's associate producers. She is the proud child of Ecuadorian immigrants and lived her whole life in South Florida before moving to Tampa in 2023 and now WUSF.

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