A Tale Of Two Counties: Northeast Florida is Booming While Long Island Has A Housing Crisis

Living on Long Island, New York isn’t what it used to be. Residents will cite a variety of reasons: the high cost of living, the lack of available workers, empty commercial real estate, high taxes, and bad traffic. A collection of economic factors has sent Nassau County’s population into a downward spiral.

Long Island residents in their early to mid-twenties are forced to decide between living with their parents or packing up and moving somewhere more affordable. The area is too expensive for Millennials, which means the area’s Baby Boomers are spending their retirement years far away from their grandchildren.

While the economic picture in Nassau County, New York appears grim, life looks a lot different 1,000 miles away in Nassau County, Florida where the economy is booming. Located outside of Jacksonville, residents in southern Nassau County can take advantage of affordable, newly constructed homes, walkable communities, warm weather, and close proximity to the beach. The population jumped 7.6% in the last two years and homes can’t be built fast enough to keep up with the demand.

America’s two Nassau Counties couldn’t be more different, and both are indicative of a trend playing out across America. Areas that were not built with scalable infrastructure are not equipped to handle long-term growth. 

Long Island is a good example. Congested highways, isolated single-family neighborhoods, and a lack of new development have all led to a major population decline and sky-high housing costs. Nassau County, Florida on the other hand, has spent years building scalable infrastructure to support denser, well-developed, well-connected neighborhoods, and now it’s reaping the benefits.

As housing costs soar throughout most of the country and remote and hybrid work continues to offer location freedom, Americans are still relocating at a high rate to areas like Nassau County, Florida. Over 2.5 million people have moved away from California, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, and Massachusetts in the last three years, while Texas, Florida, the Carolinas, and Arizona have grown by over 2 million.

However, all of the recent growth in Nassau County, Florida is leading to more traffic on the A1A and new development everywhere you look. Some residents are concerned that the rapid growth will lead the area to suffer the same fate as Nassau County, New York. These fears are shared by many across the state of Florida, who worry the local infrastructure cannot support the rapid population increase.

But with approximately 2.8 million fewer people, significantly cheaper housing, and a local government that encourages new development, Nassau County, Florida shouldn’t have to face the same consequences as Nassau County, New York any time soon.

This is because southern Nassau’s strategy is to build smart and build to scale. There are local incentives for developers to build more densely in certain locations, and neighborhoods are connected to retail, restaurants, and shopping through a trail system which helps to reduce traffic. The area is very well-positioned for growth.

Wildlight, a centrally planned town outside of Jacksonville is a carefully constructed development initiative with plans to build as many as 24,000 homes across 24,000 acres which will support a population of up to 60,000 people. The whole concept could take up to 50 years to build, but the pace has recently accelerated due to the spike in housing demand.

The community contains a commercial area with a supermarket, healthcare facilities, and a mix of businesses, and residents don’t need to drive to access any of them. A hotel and light industrial area are planned for the community as well, which will help create jobs. It’s the type of environment that suits both the young family and the retiree, and it’s the opposite of suburban sprawl. And with taxpayers earning a net of $404 million moving to Nassau County, Florida and 850 new businesses, and no state income tax, it seems as if there is plenty of economic fuel to keep driving the growth and development of these communities.

Meanwhile, in Nassau County, New York, residents have been pushing for looser restrictions on building and renting accessory dwelling units to allow for affordable housing, supports of such legislation are continually outnumbered by opponents. Much of the older generation is against new development out of fear it would change the character of Long Island.

While communities push back against new development, rent prices are rising along with housing costs. The opposite situation is playing out in the Greater Jacksonville area where there are currently 15,000 apartment units under construction. The area also issued nearly twice as many building permits as Nassau County, New York last year.

While some Long Island communities, such as Patchogue and Levittown are beginning to allow new construction, such initiatives could take years to come to fruition. In the meantime, people will continue to flock from one Nassau County to the other.