PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — When it comes to choosing what county to live in, an increasing number of Hispanics and Latinos are moving to St. Lucie County. In fact, according to preliminary 2020 census data, in the last 10 years, St. Lucie County had the highest population percentage increase of Hispanics and Latinos among the five-county viewing area.
Carla Figueroa, who is from Bolivia, said two years ago she and her husband decided to move from West Palm Beach to St. Lucie County.
"We bought a house to come live over here, and the house was much larger and more adequate to raise young children," said Carla Figueroa in Spanish about looking for homes in St. Lucie County.
According to 2020 census data, St. Lucie County had a 44.2% population increase of Hispanics and Latinos compared to 2010. It ranked the highest among the five counties when it comes to growth and ranked No. 31 among all 67 Florida counties.
"We've noticed that there has been an increase in Spanish speaking families coming in," said Maureen Gallagher, senior librarian at the Paula A. Lewis Branch Library.
St. Lucie County's Paula A. Lewis Branch Library in Port St. Lucie is about to start a new program -- bilingual story time at 10:30 a.m. on the third Friday of every month.
"We really felt that this was a need that the community was looking for," said Gallagher.
Why are more Hispanics and Latinos moving to St. Lucie County? County communications director Erick Gill has a few reasons.
"I think they are moving here like everyone else," said Gill. "St. Lucie County has affordable housing. We've got a lot of job growth in the last few years. There's a lot more (jobs). We've diversified our economy."
According to 2020 census results, St. Lucie County had a higher overall percentage increase in population over the last 10 years compared to Palm Beach, Martin, Indian River and Okeechobee counties.
The average sale price of a single-family home has increased by nearly 26% since 2020, according to the August Beaches MLS market report, but it's still $162,000 less than Palm Beach County's median single-family home sale price and $177,000 less than Martin County's average single-family home sale price.
"When we moved here, there were less Hispanics," said Figueroa. "You notice because now when you go to parks, supermarkets, you hear more people speaking Spanish, and two years ago it wasn't as common."
Here's how other Hispanic/Latino population percentage increases compare county-to-county in the viewing area: Palm Beach County saw a nearly 40% increase, Martin County's increase was 35.3% and Indian River County had a nearly 35% increase. Okeechobee County had the smallest increase in the area at 3.1%, but the county also saw a 0.08% decrease in overall population from 2010, and census records from 2010 show its previous 10-year Hispanic/Latino population percentage increase was 24%.
St. Lucie County now translates its emergency briefings in Spanish and Creole. The county has also created an internal diversity and inclusion committee.
At the Paula A. Lewis Branch Library, there are more than 500 children's books, reading materials and tablet launchpads all in Spanish, and each month the library is increasing that collection to serve the growing Hispanic population.
The first bilingual story time at Paula A. Lewis Branch Library, 2950 Rosser Blvd., will be held Friday at 10:30 a.m. No registration is needed.
The next census reports showing data on the demographic components of population changes nationally and by state are expected to be released in December.