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  • | 11:00 a.m. May 26, 2017
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Lehigh Acres — once dubbed the American Dream in high reverse by the New York Times — is now a statewide leader in rising home values.

An unincorporated area of Lee County east of Fort Myers, Lehigh Acres posted a median home value of $117,500 in 2015, according to a new report from data firm SmartAsset. That's up 68% from $69,900 in 2011.

Of course, in Lehigh Acres, a national leader in foreclosures in the late 2000s, housing values are relative. In 2006, for example, the peak year before the bust, the median home value in Lehigh Acres was $236,700. “The past 10 years have been a roller coaster ride for homeowners in Lehigh Acres,” the SmartAsset report states.

Lehigh Acres is also one of four areas from the region to make SmartAsset's top 10 list of Florida Rising Housing Markets and one of six to make the top 20. Lehigh Acres and Fort Myers tied for first place on the list with Kendall, outside Miami. In Fort Myers, the report shows, population growth outpaced new housing stock growth by 10.8% from 2011 to 2015. Median home values grew 57% over that same time period.

Riverview, in Hillsborough County, tied for No. 6 with Orlando on the list, and Cape Coral ranked No. 8. Clearwater ranked No. 17 and Tampa was No. 18. Riverview especially stood out. New people there outgrew new homes by 32.4% from 2011 to 2015, the report states, which led to a 22% surge in median home values.

Only one city in the study posted a decline in home values from 2011 through 2015: Lakeland, which was off -1.4%. “Many cities actually saw double-digit home value growth,” the report states.

Smart Asset looked at 42 cities and areas in Florida for its report, using figures from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2011 and 2015 One-Year American Community Survey. Data points included:
• Percent change in median individual incomes from 2011 to 2015;
• Percent change in median home values from 2011 to 2015;
• Percentage point difference between the percent change in population and the percent change in housing units from 2011 to 2015.

SmartAsset ranked each location across each metric. Then it assigned a score to each city based on its average ranking. The city with the highest average ranking received a 100, while the city with the lowest average ranking received a zero. Lehigh Acres, Fort Myers and Kendall posted a 100, while Spring Hill, in Hernando County, north of Tampa, ranked No. 42, the report shows.


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