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Some hopeful signs for struggling renters

Ben Brown
Jacksonville Today

Affordable housing remains one of the most troublesome issues in Jacksonville, but new research contains a few hopeful signs.

That's not to say renters will suddenly have an easy time of it. But they may find some solace in these trends:

COVID refugees

Economists say remote workers returning home from Florida could slow devastating rent increases in the Sunshine State. In the early days of the pandemic, many workers fled New York because of COVID-related restrictions and worked remotely from Florida. Now firms are requiring their employees to come back to the office.

The move should "dramatically" reduce rents in Jacksonville and other Florida markets over the next year, according to research by Florida Atlantic University, the University of Alabama and Florida Gulf Coast University.

RELATED: How much did rent go up in your neighborhood?

"Those COVID refugees placed a significant burden on the demand for rental units in Florida, and rents spiked to historic highs while New York became slightly more affordable," said Ken H. Johnson, an economist in the FAU College of Business. "With those workers returning home, Florida should see a cooling in its rent hikes, and New York renters will again have to deal with much higher rates.”

Slowing increases

Even within the state, rents have risen much more slowly in Jacksonville than most places. The cities with the fastest rising rents in the nation were all in Florida: Fort Myers, South Florida, Sarasota, Orlando, Tampa, Daytona Beach, Melbourne and Lakeland, in that order.

Rents in Fort Myers, as of June, were 29% higher than the year before. In contrast, Jacksonville's rents increased 17% during that time, ranked 22nd out of 109 cities nationwide.

Cheaper rents

Even with the increases, Jacksonville remains almost the cheapest place to rent in Florida. The average rent here in June was $1,783 per month — lower than 45 other cities nationwide, according to the study. Only one metro in Florida was lower than Jacksonville: Sebring, where rent averaged $1,299 per month.

The most expensive: South Florida at $2,848 per month.

Randy comes to Jacksonville from the South Florida Sun Sentinel, where, as metro editor, he led investigative coverage of the Parkland school shooting that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for public service. He has spent more than 40 years in reporting and editing positions in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio and Florida. You can reach Randy at or on Twitter, @rroguski.