Out of Miami: Floridians flow to new homes

Published June 10, 2007

When it comes to population growth, west-central Florida is an equal opportunity suitor, wooing new residents from hundreds of counties in 43 states.

But what's the largest source of newcomers to Pinellas, Pasco, Hillsborough, Hernando and Citrus counties? Other Florida counties.

In comparing in-state migration patterns, west-central Florida has gained more than it lost to Florida's other major metro counties, based on a St. Petersburg Times analysis of 2005 tax form data supplied by the IRS. The top three counties funneling residents here are Miami-Dade, Polk and Broward. Orange and Palm Beach aren't far behind.

Lorna Holden and Dunston Salmon aren't surprised.

The couple, originally from Jamaica, caught Tampa fever after noticing their neighborhood in Pembroke Pines, between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, attracting a surplus of young renters.

Trading up to a better house in Miami was out of the question. The 3, 200-square-foot house they bought for $360, 000 in Land O'Lakes last year would have cost them $600, 000 in southeast Florida.

"We looked in Orlando, but we saw that the Tampa area was a little cheaper, and Pasco, especially the taxes, was cheapest of all, " Holden said.

Work wasn't a problem. Holden's employer, a finance company, had an office in Tampa. Salmon travels the country installing TV satellite equipment, so it didn't matter where he was based.

Holden has become a trendsetter. One of her best friends is so turned off by her $10, 000 Miami property tax bill that she's scouting houses in Wesley Chapel.

The out-of-Miami trend was nailed by the IRS, which showed the county losing nearly 124, 000 in population between 2000 and 2005.

Most went to neighboring Broward, but migration numbers suggest the Gulf of Mexico no longer pales next to Biscayne Bay.