We have long predicted that beach communities would experience what South Tampa residents had already gone through -- the process of gentrification. New Floridians fell in love with South Tampa's history, convenience to business districts & shopping, towering oak trees & excellent schools but were frustrated by the selection of small, energy-hogging houses with big yards and small garages. So after long time residents of South Tampa gradually died or relocated, new owners swooped in to tear down the cracker boxes and replace them with energy efficient, 3+ bedroom houses with modern kitchens & maintenance-free yards.
Historically, homes near the beach were owned by part time residents. Most either lived in large, updated, attractive homes across the Bay or they were from "up north", often from the Rust Belt. Neither of these groups needed full sized houses at the beach. They bought "beach cottages" that were never meant to be full time residences, most of which were not much above 1000 sq ft with plumbing & electrical systems to match. Both groups of owners had a strong incentive to keep the price down as they were a luxury and discretionary part of household budgets.
But gradually Florida became a place that people wanted to live full time. More and more people decided they wanted to live permanently in a paradise where they once vacationed. (Since we moved here 30 years ago, Florida's population has grown by 50%.) Locally, infrastructure improvements began to make it more practical to commute inland to work from a home at the beach, which drew many residents away from other parts of Tampa Bay to a forever home near the Gulf.
Today, 75% of the single family homes at the beach are owned by people who live there full time.
Among these, there is a big "disconnect" between long time property owners and more affluent new residents. The existing housing stock is unsuitable for the latter group. There are no multi-car garages, modern kitchens and bathrooms, walk in closets, home offices, or guest rooms with lots of storage. Little by little, well heeled buyers have been purchasing smaller beach properties to tear down & build new from the ground up. But many of the long time residents are financially unable to tear down their houses and replace them with modern homes, so the barrier islands are peppered with mini-manses among the single story 2 bedroom block homes. The gentrification we predicted seemed to be dragging on and on.<!--[if !supportAnnotations]-->