ORLANDO, Fla. – News 6 is introducing Boomtown, a series of reporting on Central Florida’s rapidly growing population.
According to a study conducted by the Orlando Economic Partnership, the Orlando region is expected to add more than 1,500 people to the region every week for the next 11 years, eventually reaching a population of 5.2 million.
According to the Orlando Economic Partnership study, Osceola County “will lead the pack with a population projected to increase by more than half the current level in the next 11 years.” Orange County will be the next fastest growing county by 2030, growing at 30% compared to the rest of the region.
In regards to population, one in every nine Orlando residents moved here since 2010, half of them from another country, the study says.
Affordable housing also continues to be a growing problem with the growing population. The study shows the Orlando region has a poverty rate of 16% with more than 615,000 people living in poverty.
“The most recent data shows that the fair market rate for a two-bedroom rental in the region is $982 per month. This is 14% more expensive than the average renter can afford and 124% more expensive than a minimum wage earner ($8.46/hour) can afford,” the study shows.
Transportation is also an issue plaguing the state as Orange County officials say the average person in the region spends 46 hours a year in traffic.
According to the study, major projects like the I-4 Ultimate, extension of the SunRail and Virgin Trains USA and the addition of the new South Terminal at Orlando International Airport will help with congestion as officials look toward 2030.
Almost daily, stories of growth come into the News 6 newsroom. Many of them controversial.
For example, in April 2019, dozens packed a Seminole County Commission meeting wearing red, protesting against a development or multifamily apartment complex in the middle of their residential community.
“I don’t care who is living in it, who is using it or whatever. It’s still this monstrosity in the middle of our neighborhood,” one resident said.
In December, protesters put up signs that read “Traffic is terrible, stop building” in St. Cloud, leading to the Osceola Board of County Commissioners to ultimately reject a proposed development.
"It is insane, it should not take you an hour to go 5 to 10 miles," one protester said.
Just last week, we also heard a Umatilla businessman share his concerns.
“We’re fighting basically our small town not having that small town feel,” Greg Cummins said.
As these stories continue to come into the News 6 newsroom, we will investigate. We will educate. We will get results and get answers as to how local and state leaders plan to handle the growth responsibly.
What are our leaders doing about growth?
News 6 spoke to Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings on a push to get his One-Cent Sales Tax approved on the November 2020 ballot. If passed, he said that money will generate $600 million a year in revenue he plans to solely invest in transportation, which he says will help with growing pains on all Central Florida roadways
“Osceola, Orange County, Seminole County, even Brevard County, all around we are really growing significantly,” Demings said. "I think growth is a good thing for this community, because the moment this community stops growing, it will be the day we begin to die as a community.
Demings said the key is to have "smart growth".
"Make certain we have the right tools to manage the growth moving forward," Demings said.
So here’s our promise to you: News 6 will bring you regular coverage of these Boomtown stories and eventually we will we need to hear from you, the viewer. What personal growing pains do you and your family deal with?