Florida’s The Villages retirement community the largest US winner from city exodus

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People in the US are moving out of their homes in the cities due to the effects of COVID-19 with retirement communities benefitting.

The Villages, which describes itself as an active retirement community in central Florida, an hour’s drive north of Orlando, has seen its population rise by 3 per cent to 4 per cent as thousands of people migrated out of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas.

The Villages is consistently the best-selling (and fastest growing) master-planned retirement community in the US and the world’s biggest. It has more than 132,00 residents, larger than 33 of the 67 counties in Florida. Eighty percent of The Villages’ residents live in Sumter County. Because of The Villages’ expansion, Sumter County was the sixth-fastest-growing of America’s 3,142 counties.

US Census Bureau data shows that the New York metro area, which was hit early by the second wave of coronavirus, declined by about 108,000 residents, or 0.5%, compared to a loss of 60,000 12 months earlier.

Los Angeles and Chicago also experienced greater population declines last year compared to the previous year: around 0.5% last year compared to 0.3% in 2019 for both metros. San Francisco also had a drop of around 0.5% last year compared to a 0.1% gain in 2019.

The shift of people moving from larger to smaller cities has been going on for several years, but the pandemic exacerbated that trend, said Peter Haslag of Vanderbilt University, who conducted an unpublished study on migrant motivations with Daniel Weagley from Georgia Institute of Technology.