For years retirees have flocked to Florida for its warm weather, and more importantly to many, its low taxation. But with the flood of people have come high home prices and subsequently, high property taxes. Now, many retirees are looking deeper into the American South for low cost places to live. A group of them, known as “halfbacks,” are putting down stakes in Appalachia, where land and property taxes are cheap, and they can be surrounded by the beauty of the mountains. Cameron McWhirter explains this accelerating phenomenon in The Wall Street Journal, writing:
The halfback phenomenon—so named because the retirees are said to be moving roughly halfway back up north—was well under way by the early 2000s before coming to a halt during the recession. For several years afterward, many retirees found themselves unable to sell their Florida homes, and property values in many Appalachian areas plummeted.
But the trend has come back, according to federal data, as many of the nation’s 74 million baby boomers move for retirement.
Census data show that from 2010 to 2017, net migration to retirement-destination counties in Appalachian regions of Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee increased 169%, the same percentage of growth for retirement destinations in Florida, according to Hamilton Lombard, a University of Virginia demographer who has tracked the halfback phenomenon. During the same period, net migration to all U.S. retirement-destination counties increased 67%.
In Georgia, many of the mountain counties experienced an increase in the 65-and-older population, including Blue Ridge’s Fannin County, up to 27% in 2016 from 22% in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Net migration to retirement-destination Appalachian counties in Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee has risen steadily from about 10,000 in 2011 to more than 46,000 in 2017, census data show. The U.S. Agriculture Department designates counties as “retirement destinations” if their population 60 and older grew by 15% or more within a decade due to net migration.
Rebecca Tippett, a chief demographer at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s Carolina Population Center, said that postrecession, retirees are once again playing a large role in western North Carolina’s growth. “We’ve seen a major return to previous migration levels,” she said.
I recently wrote about Vermont’s meager attempt to attract new citizens. It’s not a great plan. If you want to bring jobs and people to your state, lower taxes and affordability are the best strategy. Read more from McWhirter here.