Friday, December 30, 2022

Thoughts on SWFL economy and moving from house to an apartment

One of the indirect consequences of Hurricane Ian was that it motivated my landlord to sell the house in Bonita Springs that my spouse Rhonda and I had been renting and living in since 2012.

Initial rent for the house was reasonable, and it went up just 16% from 2012-2022, which was less than the 29.7% cumulative rate of inflation in the US from 2012-2022 ( So we were actually getting a little better deal on rent in 2022 than in 2012. Of course that assumes that university faculty salaries in Florida kept up with inflation over that time period, which they didn't quite do, but since I got promoted from assistant professor to associate professor in 2018 we were alright.

Unfortunately, the less-than-inflation rate of rent increase that we experienced from 2012-2022 was extremely atypical for the area. Every other place in SW Florida was experiencing insanely high rent inflation, like 300% from 2012-2022. I.e., a small house like ours could rent for $2850 (or more) now. This was probably another part of our landlord's motivation to sell.

The first wave of sticker shock hit me when we started searching for a new place and realized the single family homes for rent were all some combination of: A) way too expensive, B) way too far away, and C) not available. So I was like, "Dang, I guess we have to switch down to an apartment." The second wave of sticker shock was realizing that even the single bedroom apartments in our area were a lot more expensive per month than the house had been. So I was like, "Holy moly, I have to pay way more per month AND give up the longboard windsurf and paddleboards that I built my outdoor recreation, exercise, and social routine around for 10 years? YUCK!" The sacrifices Rhonda would be making would be of similar order, including giving up space for visiting family, arts and crafts supplies, writer's library, home office space, etc.

One ray of hope and consolation was the prospect of moving closer to work and reducing my commute to bike-able distance. That was a tough thing, though, since near the FGCU campus you have to pay at least as much for a 1 bedroom apartment as you would pay for a 2 bedroom apartment with a 30 minute commute. There were some fraught negotiation surrounding the size vs. distance tradeoff, amid the stressful labor and expense of filling out endless electronic forms for multiple apartment applications. In the end the smaller but closer apartment won out, and we signed the lease.

Moving was accomplished with a rented Penske truck between the 12th and 15th of December, and the two dogs and two humans that comprise our family unit have now been fully transplanted to the apartment, at "Longitude81" behind Hertz Arena, where the Everblades play hockey. The watersports gear I didn't sell is convalescing at friends' houses- the 14' Riviera paddleboard in my old neighborhood, and the 14' Fanatic paddleboard and 11'8 Exocet Windsup in a colleague's backyard storage unit. I've so far made one trip back to the old neighborhood to paddle the Riviera, and one trip to Bunche Beach in Fort Myers to windsurf with the shortboard that now lives permanently in my minivan. So it looks like I will preserve my watersports hobbies in some form, but to get enough exercise I'm also going to have to jog and use the little gym room at the apartment complex.

One thing that's on my list to do is figure out exactly what watersports I can do at the lake on the FGCU campus, and when I can do them without getting hassled by the campus cops. Around two years ago I was getting a pretty good routine going of hydrofoil windsurfing on the FGCU lake, but then a campus police officer told me I could only do it when the lifeguards were on station at the lakefront, which I think rules out the after-work sessions I was getting. BEGIN BEACH ACCESS RANT: Beach and lake access in SW Florida was getting really difficult even before the storm. We've got miles of near-empty private beaches for rich people to look at from their mansions or condos, but not nearly enough public beach parking to accommodate inland residents and tourists. The post-hurricane closures of almost all the beaches in Lee County and North Collier County, combined with pathogenic bacteria, red tide fish kills, etc. has made the beach access situation even worse, of course. My partial solution would be to condemn the destroyed beachfront lots and let them be public parking areas but that would be anethema to the pro-privitization ethos of area leaders.

Ok, how do I wrap this up? I'm moving forward with all the optimism I can muster, but struggling with the demoralizing effects of current circumstances. I'm getting more politically charged against the rich-take-all, screw-the-environment, damn-the-poor economic trend that seems to have taken hold of the world, and particularly this peninsular state, as its effects are becoming more and more invasive in my life and the lives of my colleagues, friends, and neighbors. That anger is tempered somewhat by reminding myself that living more simply and eliminating my car commute is a good thing for the planet that I probably should have done anyway, and I still have the really important essentials like safe shelter and a beloved partner to share it with.