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PALM COAST, FL – October 31, 2018 – Thirty percent of Flagler County’s population is age 65 or older (as of July 1, 2017 per U.S. Census Bureau), up from only 24.6 percent in 2010. The median age grew from 47.7 years to 51.6 years over the same period. The U.S. Census report ranks the Flagler County population among the oldest in the country.
How does Flagler County compare with our neighbors? Volusia County’s median age is 46.8, with only 24.1 percent of its population aged 65 or older. St. Johns County is younger yet with a median age of 43.8 with only 19.8 percent above age 65. Thank God for The Villages where the median age is 70.6 years.
During the past 12 months, two large deluxe Adult Living Facilities (ALFs) have opened in Palm Coast. A third is due to open tomorrow. A fourth has passed the entitlement and rezoning process but final site plans have yet to be approved. Additional ALF operators continue to sniff around target-rich Flagler County.
At the same time, there have been no multi-family building permits issued in the county (including Palm Coast) for nearly four years. That is about to change with two apartment complexes totaling 328 units nearing the permit stage, but four years is a long time.
Over half (53.9%) of new Flagler/Palm Coast single-family homes are between 1,700 and 2,200 square feet. Widen the range only slightly – 1,500 to 2,500 square feet – and you capture 73.2% of new homes. These are three and four bedroom homes with 2 to 2 1/2 baths and an attached two car garage. No homes are smaller than 1,200 square feet. There are no two-bedroom homes, no one-car garages, no carports.
We celebrate commercial wins like the Beutlich Development spec building under construction at Route 1 and Otis Stone Hunter Road, the Gioia Sails decision to stay and expand within the county, and the CP Performance relocation to Flagler. Yet, those of us outside Flagler Beach mourn the loss of Sea Ray and its 400 jobs.
Without a more diverse housing stock and jobs, we will not attract a more diverse population. “Palm Coast” is a way cooler name than the more accurate “Levittown South” would have been. Remember, it was Levitt & Son who helped ITT plan Palm Coast. The city was designed from the beginning to epitomize suburban sprawl.
The Sunshine State will continue to attract retirees. As my dad used to say, “People don't like the temperature to be less than their age.” And the new tax law will encourage more high-earner northerners to move our way. Until we break the ITT/Levitt mindset evident among many residents and some City Council members, we will be an ever-expanding, suburban-sprawling bedroom community of mostly retirees who like it just the way it was when they moved here.
To reverse the aging trend, Flagler County needs employers with jobs, workers with skills, and suitable housing for the workforce.