Man who ditched California due to the ‘cost of living, politics, traffic and crime’ says he’s ‘much happier’ in Florida — but is the Sunshine State now losing its luster?

Man who ditched California due to the ‘cost of living, politics, traffic and crime’ says he’s ‘much happier’ in Florida — but is the Sunshine State now losing its luster?
Man who ditched California due to the ‘cost of living, politics, traffic and crime’ says he’s ‘much happier’ in Florida — but is the Sunshine State now losing its luster?

So much for “Go West, young man.” California now ranks as the top state Americans chose to leave in 2023.

According to PODS Moving and Storage, the Golden State recorded a net loss of 91,000 residents.

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In fact, seven California cities ranked in PODS’ top 20 move-out list for 2023, including four in the top 10: Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and Stockton-Modesto. The geographic spread of these cities indicates that this is a statewide exodus.

So, what’s driving the Golden State’s lopsided out-migration?

Terry Gilliam — who lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for 35 years before fleeing to Florida in 2021 — blamed the state’s total lack of affordability, among other things.

“It was the cost of living and the politics, the traffic, homelessness, crime — everything has gotten worse and worse in California and the solutions they proposed only made things worse,” he told FOX26.

While Gilliam claims to be “much happier” in Florida, even the Sunshine State has lost some of its shine for Americans seeking out greener pastures. Here’s what the PODS data shows.

California leads pack with largest out-migration

California’s population dipped below 39 million in 2023, the lowest count since 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Data.

PODS attributes the state’s out-migration trend to several core factors — primarily, the high sales, income and property taxes and the cost of living, which is almost 40% higher than the national average, according to The Cost of Living Index published by the Council for Community and Economic Research.

Gilliam, who runs two Facebook groups — “Leaving California” and “Life after California” — as a way to connect with others who’ve ditched the Golden State, said there’s one specific “straw that breaks the camel’s back,” which is the exorbitant cost of housing for both buyers and renters.

The average California home value is $786,938, up 7.2% over the past year — and $426,267 above the national average, which only increased 4.3% over the same period, according to Zillow.

Those priced out of buying must contend with “astronomical” rents, per Gilliam. In May 2024, the average rent of a two-bedroom apartment in California cost over $2,800, according to Zillow’s rental market analysis. In the more expensive cities, like San Francisco (where Gilliam lived) and Los Angeles, the average rental can surpass $3,000 a month.

Gilliam blamed the state’s sky-high shelter costs on “a huge shortage of housing,” which has created a “domino effect” that has tumbled deep into Californians’ bank accounts.

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Sunshine State has competition

Several hotspots for fleeing Californians are Texas, Florida, Arizona, Tennessee and Nevada. All of these states are very tax friendly and, historically, have enjoyed a lower cost of living.

Gilliam picked Florida as his final destination. He told FOX26 he is happy to live in a place where “law and order rules,” in comparison to California’s rising rates of crime and homelessness — two data points highlighted by PODS as a factor in the Golden State’s out-migration.

While the Sunshine State remains ever popular, it did in fact lose its stronghold as the most popular state for move-ins in 2023, per PODS data. It is facing heavy competition from states in the Southern Appalachian region, including Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Alabama, and South Carolina.

There has been some trouble in paradise of late. As of April, Florida was among the states with the highest rate of inflation in the U.S. at nearly 4%, according to an analysis by Moody’s Analytics cited by multiple news outlets, based on a three-month moving average.

One of the biggest financial pain points for Floridians is the soaring cost of home insurance, thanks partly to severe weather like hurricanes and tornadoes dramatically increasing property risks.

According to digital insurance agency Insurify, Florida homeowners pay the most for home insurance, with an average annual rate of $10,996 in 2023 — and the company predicts those costs will increase another 7% in 2024 to $11,759. That’s a huge premium to pay on top of high mortgage rates, property taxes and other essential living costs.

Despite these challenges, the Sunshine State has experienced positive net-migration of around 3.7% over the past decade, while outbound migration grew at a slower pace of about 1.5%, according to the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

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This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.