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Brandi Jewett, Forum News Service, Published July 11 2013

Grand Forks' population grows while drop in East Grand Forks is a surprise

GRAND FORKS - Grand Forks experienced population growth in 2012 that is ahead of city planners’ predictions while East Grand Forks saw an unexpected drop, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s estimate.

Grand Forks picked up an estimated 792 residents compared to 2011 for a growth rate of 1.5 percent, the bureau said.

“It’s fairly good for the city,” said Earl Haugen, executive director of the Grand Forks-East Grand Forks Metropolitan Planning Organization.

The increase comes in higher than the yearly growth rate adopted by the city for use in its long-range land use plan, which is 1.2 percent. The plan predicts Grand Forks’ building, infrastructure and population needs up to 2040.

The population bump brings the Grand Forks’ estimated population to 53,456. Grand Forks County’s estimated population increased by 909 to 67,472 in 2012 — a 1.4 percent increase.

In the same timeframe, East Grand Forks saw an estimated loss of 30 residents, bringing the population to 8,548 — a 0.3 percent decrease. Polk County also recorded an overall loss of 0.3 percent or about 184 residents, bringing the population to 31,416.

“We were surprised (East Grand Forks) itself didn’t grow,” Haugen said.

More housing

The growth in Grand Forks can be traced to newly constructed housing units.

In 2012, the city had building permits filed for 110 single family homes, 22 townhome units, and 292 apartment units. The city netted a total of 420 housing units, which included four demolished units.

Permits from all three building types were higher than in 2011. That year, permits were requested for 69 single-family homes, 16 townhomes and 241 apartments.

Despite the decrease in its estimated population, East Grand Forks saw a significant increase in the number of housing permits issued.

In 2011, the city issued only four building permits. Last year, East Grand Forks recorded building permits for 21 single-family homes and 39 apartments.

“We were expecting a slight increase, not a slight decrease,” Haugen said. “The thinking is that Polk County may have impacted estimates inside the city.”

MPO estimates

Both Census estimates came in under the MPO’s estimates for the cities.

The agency estimated that Grand Forks population would grow to 54,358 while East Grand Forks would grow to 8,739.

The MPO bases its estimates in part on the number of new dwellings built in the cities and apartment vacancy rates.

Haugen said there is a lag between when local information is available and when the Census receives it. The MPO can access that information more quickly, leading to the discrepancy between the two sets of numbers, according to Haugen.

Discrepancies led the city of Grand Forks to submit a challenge to the Census Bureau earlier this year. The challenge corrected errors made during the 2010 census and resulted in the city getting 37 more residents that were incorrectly included in the Grand Forks County estimate.