Tu-Uyen Tran, Forum Communications Co., Published December 09 2010
New homes outpacing population growthGRAND 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 spread between housing growth and population growth among the counties for which census estimates are available for 2009 can be striking.
- Grand Forks County’s housing grew 9.1 percent since 2000 while population grew 0.5 percent. That’s a spread of 8.6 percentage points.
- In Cass County, housing grew 23.2 percent and population 16.4 percent, a spread of 6.8 percentage points.
- In Stark County, housing grew 7 percent and population 0.9 percent, a spread of 6.1 percentage points.
As Rathge suggested, the census estimates average household size has shrunk.
- Statewide, it’s dropped from 2.41 persons per household to 2.24.
- In Grand Forks County, it’s dropped from 2.43 to 2.35.
- In Cass County, it’s dropped from 2.32 to 2.12.
- In Stark County, it’s dropped from 2.44 to 2.29.
North Dakota’s numbers as a whole are unusual because it generally ranks at the bottom in household size among the states. In 2009, the Census Bureau estimated it was last. The national average that year was 2.63.
At the same time as housing has grown, vacancy rates have crept up.
- Statewide, it’s gone from 11.2 percent to 11.6 percent.
- In Grand Forks County, it’s gone up from 7.1 percent to 9.1 percent.
- In Cass County, 4.6 percent to 4.7 percent.
- In Stark County, 8.1 percent to 8.4 percent.
Tu-Uyen Tran is a writer for the Grand Forks Herald