Retirees Heading for the Hills in Greater Numbers

May 16, 2018
Great Smoky Mountains
Photo: Pixabay

"Halfbacks" are not just football players. The term also applies to Northerners who moved to Florida, and are now retiring in Appalachian Mountain communities, halfway back North. 

As more Baby Boomers retire, they are increasingly heading to mountain communities in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia, and locals are already feeling disrupted and priced out of the housing markets. The "halfback phenomenon," as puts it, is not new. Starting in the early 2000s, it took a pause during the housing crisis, only to gain more steam today. Census data show that net migration to Appalachian retirement-destination counties rose 169 percent from 2010 to 2017.

But increased development has created its own problems, including extra traffic and strained water infrastructure, as well as a higher demand for medical services. When a developer proposed recently to building a 3 1/2-story building in Blue Ridge, many complained it was “a skyscraper,” said Mr. Fitts, the real-estate agent. Terry Stonecipher, a 43-year-old mechanic who has lived in the area most of his life, said area residents have bristled at some of the newcomers. “People that have no manners,” he said. “Go back where you came from.”

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