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Some St. Johns County workers can't afford to live where they work

The population and the number of tourists are both going up in St. Augustine, but so is the cost of housing.

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — The population and number of tourists are both going up in St. Augustine, but so is the cost of housing. Some people who work in St. Johns County can't afford to live there.

"It's not gonna happen," said Betty Rehrer, in reference to buying a home in the county she works in. "We can't afford it."

Rehrer spends her workdays in St. Augustine helping people who are homeless. But when it comes to her own home and helping herself, Rehrer says she and her daughter are forced to live outside of St. Johns County and live together because they can't afford to buy a home there.

"We can't get approved together so it's really, it's sad because she wants to own her own home," Rehrer said. "So, it just makes it really hard and we have to continue to rent."

This is a problem Bill Lazar, executive director at the St. Johns Housing Partnership, says is also impacting local businesses.

"They'd make an offer to someone, this person would say 'yes,' they'd accept it, they'd call them back and say 'I'm sorry, I can't find housing in my price range,'" Lazar said. "When you don't have employees, the business doesn't stay open."

St. Johns County's population is still shooting up. It went up 12 percent from 2020 to last year, which would be everyone in Palatka moving to St. Johns County three times.

"Most of them are well-to-do simply because if the median price for a house is $500,000 that means you've got to have close to $160,000 in household income to buy that house," Lazar said.

Homes are selling for around $400,000 on average in St. Johns County, according to multiple real estate websites. The median household income is almost $90,000, the U.S. Census Bureau reports.

Lazar says more people are forced to rent, like Rehrer, who says her landlords have raised her rent $350 in recent years.

"It's hard because you think you do everything the right way and it's still no way to owning your own home," Rehrer said.

Lazar believes new legislation that will put millions toward affordable housing programs will help with affordable housing.

Here are some more takeaways about the population in and affordability of living in St. Johns County:

  • U.S. Census Bureau data shows from 2010 to 2020, St. Johns County's population increased 44 percent (116,800 people). By comparison, Jacksonville saw a 15 percent population increase in those 10 years.
  • St. Johns County's population went up by 13,666 in one year from 2021 to 2022. The year before, from 2020 to 2021, the population went up by 20,000.
  • The average price of rent for a two-bedroom home is $2,000, according to real estate websites like Zumper.

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