Florida remains a popular destination for retirees, businesses, and people looking for new opportunities. However, experts at a recent real estate conference in Florida emphasized that there’s more to the process than simply moving to the state. They pointed out that to enjoy life in Florida, people need affordable housing and a welcoming community that makes them feel at home.

Last week, at the Hyatt Regency Orlando, industry experts convened for the summit, which is part of Florida Realtors® Mid-Winter Business Meetings. The discussions revolved around the state’s population growth, migration, and the pressing affordability issue. 

Jeff Johnson, AARP Florida state director and a key panelist, emphasized real estate professionals’ unique role in this scenario. “People need to become invested in being part of our state and feel a sense of belonging, of community and having a strong social and support network that truly makes Florida ‘home’ for them. That’s a big job, and you (Realtors) probably didn’t sign up for it, but I’m giving it to you anyway.” Johnson’s message was clear: the task might be unintended, but realtors must foster this sense of community belonging.

The panel, including Heather Kasten, president and CEO of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, and Jennifer Warner, Florida Realtors economist, delved into the impact of high housing costs on the state’s demographic – from retirees to the working class. Drawing from her extensive experience, Kasten shed light on the challenges employers face, amplified by the pandemic, inflation, and rising costs. 


“Affordable housing – the lack of it – is another rung of challenges for employers,” she stated. A concerning trend noted by Kasten is the daily influx of approximately 1,200 people into Florida, many being wealthy retirees or those seeking second homes, often paying in cash. This influx creates a competitive housing market that often sidelines young professionals who rely on mortgages, pushing them to dwell farther from their workplaces. A survey by the Greater Sarasota Chamber highlighted this, revealing that about 40% of young professionals commute up to 40 miles to their jobs.

“I think we’re on the cusp of big changes when it comes to transportation and affordable housing,” Kasten said, advocating for innovative solutions such as integrating housing in business and workforce plans and providing incentives for added housing densities. She pointed to emerging trends where institutions like schools and hospitals offer housing solutions for essential workers like teachers and nurses.

Johnson also addressed the retiree segment, highlighting their preference for livable communities with easy access to amenities and social opportunities. He noted, “People move to Florida with their heart; they leave Florida because of their head.” This comment underscored the reality that while Florida attracts retirees for its allure, the practical challenges often compel them to relocate.

He also pointed out that most people outlive their ability to drive by about ten years, stressing the need for increased densities in established communities. This would allow for more Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), which could accommodate caregivers, an essential consideration for aging residents.

Johnson concluded by emphasizing the importance of a sense of belonging and connection for those relocating to Florida. He encouraged Realtors to aid in this integration process, giving people a reason to stay and call Florida their home.

This summit gave a clear idea of what the future holds for Florida’s housing market. As Florida continues to attract diverse populations, those in real estate play a big part in making sure Florida is a friendly, inclusive state where everyone finds a special place to call home.