The number of homes in some Arizona counties is growing faster than the number of people, a statistic that may suggest smaller families.
Figures from the U.S. Census Bureau being released today show Arizona added nearly 70,500 housing units in the 12 months ending July 1, 2004. That’s a 3 percent increase, a figure identical to population estimates made by the federal agency three months ago.
All is not equal throughout the state.
Pinal County topped not only the state but was sixth in the nation in the percentage of new homes, condominiums and apartments, posting a 7.4 percent growth rate to nearly 99,000. Yet the population, while increasing faster than the statewide average, grew only 4.8 percent in the same time period.
Maricopa County added about 45,000 homes during the 12-month period, the largest numerical gain in the nation. That computed out to 3.3 percent — identical to population growth over the same time.
Greg Harper, a demographer for the Census Bureau, said one likely factor is occupancy rate — the number of people living in a home.
"That’s a trend that’s been going on for awhile,’’ said Harper, and not just in Arizona.
"The average population per household has been decreasing.’’
Samuel Colon, a demographer for the state Department of Economic Security, said Arizona does not keep track of things like family size on an annual basis.
But Colon said there are other factors in the disparity between housing and population growth, factors that may play a larger role.
One of those is the vacancy rate. He said rapidly growing areas like Pinal County may have homes going up faster than people can fill them.
There may be one other component that affects the figures: Vacation homes.
Figures from the 2000 census — the most recent available on this issue show that 6.5 percent of all homes in the state were listed for seasonal, recreational or occasional use.
That’s more than twice as high as the national average.
And in Coconino County — a place many Valley residents have vacation homes — the figure in 2000 was 17.1 percent.