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Tu-Uyen Tran, Forum Communications Co., Published December 09 2010

New homes outpacing population growth

GRAND FORKS – Grand Forks County, like other larger North Dakota counties, has seen more and more homes built in the past decade, yet U.S. Census Bureau estimates suggest they may be outpacing the number of people who would live in them.

The State Data Center at North Dakota State University, which works with the census, recently released a report contrasting the steady growth in housing and the much slower growth in population.

Between 2000 and 2009, the number of housing units grew an estimated 9.2 percent while population grew an estimated 0.7 percent.

Richard Rathge, director of the data center, said households are just getting smaller with families having fewer children, a long-term trend nationwide.

North Dakota’s four most populous counties – Cass, Burleigh, Grand Forks and Ward – accounted for the bulk of the housing growth, but substantial contributions were made by Morton County, next door to Burleigh, and Stark and Williams counties in the state’s rapidly expanding oil patch.

That indicates developers are beginning to respond to housing needs of the booming oil work force, Rathge said, though they may not be keeping up.

Estimates and projections, he said, are tougher to do these days because of the “dynamic nature of the state.” Census estimates rely on administrative records, such as tax filings that may be subject to time lag, he said.

The numbers

The spread between housing growth and population growth among the counties for which census estimates are available for 2009 can be striking.

Tu-Uyen Tran is a writer for the Grand Forks Herald