More than 300,000 people have moved to Florida each year since 2015 and state economists are predicting the trend to continue into 2024.
In a recent summary from the Demographic Estimating Conference, Florida's population between April 1, 2018 and April 1, 2024 is expected to grow by an average of 330,605 residents per year. The roughly 900 new Florida residents each day is the equivalent of adding a city the size of Orlando every year.
The estimate is based on the number of people who move into the state and not from births, which are balanced out by deaths.
The report estimates that Florida will grow to more than 21.5 million residents in 2020 and increase to over 22.8 million people in 2024.
As the population grows state leaders will have to be careful not to allow the destruction of the amenities that attract people to Florida, said Paul Owens, President of 1000 Friends of Florida, a nonprofit group that advocates for smart growth and sustainable development.
“We have wonderful weather most of the year, world class beaches, gorgeous natural springs, treasures like the Everglades, and we have a great outdoor lifestyle here that appeals to a lot of people,” Owens said. "It’s ironic that the very elements that make Florida so attractive to people are put in danger if we don't handle the influx carefully."
According to Owens, Florida leaders were very committed to growth management when 1000 Friends of Florida was founded 30 years ago.
"That commitment has waned in the years since," Owens said.
This year, Florida legislators passed a bill (HB 7103) that made it harder to challenge developers who violate growth management plans.
"This bill makes it more difficult to enforce primary planning documents in cities and counties," Owens said. "When I say enforce, I mean to make sure that cities and counties stick with those plans for orderly and well managed growth."
1000 Friends of Florida promotes building new homes and businesses in urban areas that are already populated and accessible to public services.
"Putting people in remote areas consumes open land that's important to our environmental health," Owens said. "It’s also more likely to degrade and deplete our water supply."
The state report estimates that Florida will grow 1.53% over the next six years.
"The idea that we are growing by the size of Orlando every year, has a particular resonance with me," Owens said. "So, when Florida's leaders seem to be losing their commitment to managing growth properly, reports like this show that we need, now more than ever, to be committed to those goals."