BY ROBIN BENEDICK
STAFF WRITER, SUN SENTINEL
If you think Florida is crowded now, just wait.
By 2030, the Sunshine State will be crammed with almost 25 million people, according to projections released Wednesday by the University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research. That’s 1.5 million more people than demographers had predicted before the 2000 census.
“We’re going to see more growth more quickly,” said UF demographer June Nogle.
Florida should replace New York as the third-largest state by 2024, she said.
Palm Beach County will grow by almost 730,000 people, to nearly 1.9 million. Miami-Dade will keep its No. 1 position with more than 3 million people, an increase of almost 900,000.
Broward County is expected to have the largest population increase among Florida’s 67 counties, growing by 940,000 people during the next three decades to more than 2.5 million people.
All told, South Florida will be home to more than 7.5 million people in 30 years, which is slightly smaller than the population of North Carolina.
Like it or not, accommodating so many people will be a big challenge.
Roads already are jammed. Housing prices are soaring. Schools are overwhelmed. Water resources are limited.
“It scares me to think about it,” said Lester Goldstein, a longtime South Florida resident and president of the region’s builders association.
Making sure everyone has a place to live may mean increasing densities so more people can be squeezed into developments.
Even the slowest-growing counties, such as Monroe, where Key West now gets fewer permanent residents and more seasonal visitors, will grapple with change and limited resources. Like Monroe, Gadsden and Jefferson counties in the northwestern part of the state also will grow by less than20 percent during 30 years.
What’s fueling Florida’s growth isn’t just an influx of immigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean. It’s people moving here from other states who are expected to continue accounting for more than 85 percent of the state’s growth. In some counties, such as Pinellas, which has a large elderly population, migration into Florida is the only reason they grow, because there are more deaths than births, Nogle said.
While Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties will lead the state in sheer number increases, Collier County, including Naples, as well as Flagler and Osceola counties will have the largest percentage increases because of their locations near metropolitan areas. Those counties will each grow by 100 percent or more, Nogle said.
Robin Benedick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 954-385-7914.
These new population projections show that Florida will grow faster than expected over the next 30 years. These 10 counties will see the biggest increases in numbers of residents:
Source: University of Florida Bureau of Economic and Business Research