I get at least 2-3 emails a week asking me something along the lines of:
“Everything people say about The Villages seems too good to be true. What are the problems in The Villages that we need to know about?”
While it wouldn't be practical for me to cover all of the problems in The Villages, what I will do in this article is cover a few of the problems facing The Villages today.
Some of these problems The Villages is working very hard on and will get better, while others may never go away.
And, DISCLAIMER, I am by no means knocking The Villages.
Do you really think I would have dedicated the past decade of my life to teaching people about The Villages if I didn't think it was a good place to live?
I'm merely pointing out things that may be issues for some that you won't find in the sales brochure.
Got it? Ok, here we go.
This is a problem that we may one day be able to say is solved, but as long as The Villages continues to grow like it has, getting around will always be an issue.
For a while there after The Villages jumped the turnpike, a lot of people down in the southernmost part of the community felt a little disconnected from the rest of the community.
But now that the first of the planned bridges is in place, that feeling is easing, and it should get even better in 2020 when more bridges and tunnels are in play.
Here’s a video update from The Villages on that:
Despite some reports to the contrary, The Villages enjoys a low crime rate.
But, a lot of people have the impression that there’s ZERO crime and that’s simply not true!
I’ve written about crime here before and also in my book, so I won’t rehash all the details, but in general the types of crime The Villages sees on a regular basis include drunk driving arrests, arrests stemming from domestic disputes, financial fraud, stolen golf carts and so on.
A recent news report even states that much of the crime comes in from other areas.
That's fair enough. But still not a reason to believe that crime is non-existent.
One thing that I think would actually help this problem is if more people woke up to the fact that crime does exist inside the bubble, and they took prudent steps to help prevent the types of crime that can be prevented.
The stated goal of The Villages as far as healthcare is concerned is to be recognized as “America’s Healthiest Hometown”.
And over the years they’ve tried real hard to be a leader when it comes to healthcare for seniors.
You have to give them credit for that.
Unfortunately, their efforts have not always been met with success.
But let's start at the beginning.
One of The Villages founder Harold Schwartz’s last missions was to see a hospital built in the community before he died.
In fact, he was so confident in the mission that he erected a billboard with a picture of himself pointing to a vacant lot with the words “I’ll live to see The Villages Regional Hospital (TVRH) right here.”
And he did!
TVRH opened in July 2002, and Schwartz passed away at the age of 93 on December 22, 2003.
I don’t know of many communities, retirement or otherwise, that have an actual hospital inside the community, so The Villages could have just stopped there, but that’s not in their DNA.
In 2011 they raised money to help bring in a Moffitt Cancer Center to be based at TVRH, so that residents undergoing cancer treatment would not have to travel to Moffitt’s facility in Tampa. Unfortunately, in 2015 the partnership with Moffitt ended.
The cancer center at TVRH is still open, it’s just no longer run by Moffitt.
Also in 2011 they partnered with USF (University of South Florida) Health to help educate residents on a variety of healthcare issues.
They later announced a partnership with USF Health called The Villages Health, a unique healthcare concept designed to redefine how Villagers interact with their doctors and treatment centers.
A slow start to the financial success of this venture led USF to pull out of the partnership in 2014, but The Villages Health continues on without them.
In early 2019, The Villages Regional Hospital received a one-star rating from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, prompting hospital leaders to hold Q&A's with residents on why the hospital scored so poorly and what changes were being made to fix the problems.
On the plus side, The Center for Advanced Healthcare at Brownwood is slated to open in 2020, giving Villagers even more care options close by.
Would I like to see The Villages take fewer home run swings on the healthcare front?
No way! You have to take big swings if you want big things to happen, and I think they'll eventually get more home runs than strike outs in the future.
As the number of houses and the number of residents grow, it only makes sense that it would get harder to enforce the many restrictions that give The Villages its appeal.
Take for instance, the 55+ age restriction.
While the developer can and does enforce the restriction on new home sales, it’s much harder for them to enforce this rule on resales and rentals that occur outside of their offices.
We talked about crime earlier, and if you follow the news you’ll notice that a lot of the crime (but not all) is committed by people under the age of 55.
I don’t think anybody has a count of those under 55 living in The Villages, but if such a count did exist I think people would be surprised at how big the number really is.
A few years back there was also the issue with for sale sign restrictions.
Some parts of The Villages enforced the restrictions while others didn’t, so when the areas that didn’t all of a sudden began enforcing them, it caused all sorts of confusion and issues.
Another problem surrounding restrictions is that a lot of restriction enforcement is only being done when residents report other residents for violations.
As you can imagine this can create animosity among neighbors which isn’t good for any community.
Sinkholes aren’t just a problem for The Villages, they occur in other places in Florida too.
But over the last decade or so it seems like The Villages has seen more than its fair share of sinkholes following long periods of either very dry or very wet weather.
You can read more about sinkholes here.
There’s not much The Villages or anybody else can do to keep sinkholes from occurring, which is why I think you’ll see sinkholes in the problem column for The Villages pretty much forever.
But educating buyers is key, to ensure they understand both the risks as well as the types of coverage available to them.
As The Villages continues to march south, the lighthearted joke you hear around town is that one day you’ll be able to drive your golf cart from Spanish Springs all the way down to Key West.
Just like anything else, there are both benefits and drawbacks to growth.
There are residents who welcome the good that growth brings, such as more amenities, more restaurants, more things to see and do.
But you also have some people who bought here thinking The Villages would be one size at completion, only to find out that they might be dead and gone before completion ever occurs.
This much is true…if you’re buying in The Villages today, expect it to grow well beyond what it is today for as long as you can possibly imagine!
There you have it, a few of the problems facing The Villages today.
Some of them solvable, and some that may be with us forever.
Hopefully this list is not enough to scare you off, but things you should be aware of all the same.
If you think you want to explore some other Florida retirement communities, there's always that option as well.
Ready to kick your search for a home in The Villages into high-gear? Check out my Realtor Referral Program here.