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Housing costs rising rapidly in South Florida

The 29-year-old Doral resident shares his apartment with a roommate, but when he adds in the cost of utilities, his portion of the rent still comes out to about $900 a month. He’s thought about buying, but is worried about purchasing a condo while the market is so unstable.

So he wasn’t too surprised when told about government inflation data released Wednesday, which showed that for the second time in a row, Miami-Fort Lauderdale area costs for rent, mortgage payments and insurance had its highest annual increase in 25 years.

“Not only do you have the rent, you have utilities, which are always going up,” said McMinn, who works in governmental affairs for Becker & Poliakoff in Fort Lauderdale.

“It’s been crazy expensive this summer,” he said.

Last month, shelter costs increased 8.4 percent, the highest annual increase since May 1982, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which measures local area inflation by several indexes every other month.

According to the most recent data, which measures prices in July-August, rent increased 7 percent and owners’ equivalent of rent (which includes mortgage payments and insurance) went up 9 percent since August 2006.

In June, the last time such costs were measured, the shelter cost index also had its highest increase in 25 years. Then, it was 8.2 percent.

Last month, overall prices – housing, food, fuel and all other costs – went up 3.7 percent compared to the year before, the BLS said.

The rate of inflation in South Florida is almost double that of the national rate and the South, where costs advanced 2 percent in August.

Miramar homeowner Crystal Thompson thinks that people just pay a premium to live in South Florida, now that it’s such a destination area, she says, with tourists especially willing to pay more on shopping and gas.

She says she’s happy she was able to buy her four-bedroom townhouse four years ago, as her homeowner’s exemption has insulated her from big property tax increases.

“I feel grateful that I bought when I did,” said Thompson, a program manager with Royal Caribbean. Thompson feels that she, like many people, are just stuck with where they are and don’t want to risk losing their homeowner tax savings.

“It’s a situation where you’re pretty much locked into what you have,” she said.

Copyright © 2007,The Miami Herald, Niala Boodhoo. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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