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The Dark Side of Jacksonville’s Real Estate Market

Omar Aftab

In recent years, Jacksonville has become increasingly developed. People have been gathering from around the nation for the sunshine and beaches that the city provides while still being relatively slow-paced and understated compared to more tourist-based cities like Miami and Orlando. However, whereas these cities are popular for tourists, Jacksonville is becoming a place where people are settling down, and this is being reflected in the booming housing market.

According to Zillow, an online real-estate marketplace company, Jacksonville is the second hottest housing market in the nation, runner-up only to Tampa. Even with an average price of more than $300,000, homes in Jacksonville are expected to increase 22% through November. This is all great news for anyone who owns property and is looking to sell, as well as those itching to try their hand at the real estate business in the hopes of hitting it big. But what about those who are still in the process of saving up to put down their roots and buy a home, while also dealing with rising rent?

For them, Jacksonville is quickly becoming a nightmare of a city to live in. Houses have outrageous price tags that are nearly impossible to afford, and the price of rent is shooting up every year, forcing people to move back in with parents, find roommate, or simply give up most of their paychecks and any opportunities that come with a price in order to make rent.

WJCT News recently reported that local rent has increased by 31.5% in the last year, nearly 6% higher than the increase in mortgages over the same time period and over two times the average rent for the entire nation. Economist Daryl Fairweather claimed the high cost of mortgages is forcing people to rent, further driving up rental costs and creating a vicious cycle that is expected to persist throughout 2022.

Jacksonville resident Danyal Asad said he’s seen his own rent prices soar recently. When he first started living at Waters Ridge Apartment on St. Johns Bluff, his rent was around $850 a month. It was a manageable amount, enabling him to pursue a college degree while working full time. Over the years, however, rent steadily increased, while the quality of various services, such as maintenance, were only going down. By mid-2021, his rent had reached $1,300 a month, unless he signed a lease for a period of time he simply wasn’t willing to. Given only two weeks to make a decision, Asad scrambled to find a new place to live. He ended up paying $1,280, nearly the same price but for a more spacious apartment with better services.

Asad’s story isn’t a rare one. The entire population of Jacksonville has felt the waves of this increase in prices; some for better, some for worse. Ever since the pandemic began, there’s been a steady shift of wealth from the poor to the rich, creating a greater class disparity than the U.S. has seen in ages. Nearly two years later, the effects are still present and are perhaps even worsening. The real estate market is just a reflection of that economic reality.