Chandler population growth declines slightly - East Valley Tribune: News

Chandler population growth declines slightly

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Posted: Tuesday, June 30, 2009 9:37 pm | Updated: 1:39 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Chandler has been lucky in the ongoing economic downturn's timing, which coincided with the natural end of the city's housing boom, economic development officials said Tuesday.

It means Chandler doesn't have a glut of unoccupied housing stock, unlike some other Valley cities like Queen Creek, said Rebecca Howe, city economic development researcher.

"It actually worked out well for Chandler," Howe said. "The huge boom had come to a natural end before the economy turned."

New U.S. Census Bureau figures, released Wednesday, indicate that Chandler's population growth rate from the last 10-year census in 2000 to July 2008 put it among the top 20 fastest-growing cities in the nation with populations of more than 100,000. Chandler's cumulative growth rate over that period was 39.5 percent.

In the latter years, however, the city's population growth rate slightly slowed from 1.7 percent in 2006-07 to 1.4 percent in 2007-08, according to the census figures.

"That is right along with what we have been anticipating," Howe said.

She said officials expected the growth rate to slow as the city runs out of land available for residential development, a condition called buildout, in 2019.

"The population is still increasing at a healthy rate for us," she said. "It's part of the natural progression of a city. We're running out of land."

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Howe said the 2008-09 population growth rate is expected to dip lower but not into the negative. As of July 2008, the city's population stood at 247,140.

Craig Younger, a city spokesman, said the number of approved single-family homebuilding permits fell from 1,011 in calendar year 2007 to just 371 in 2008. Only 22 such permits have been approved in the first quarter of 2009, he said.

Chandler is not alone in having a declining growth rate. Growth has slowed in most Arizona communities, according to the census figures.

Statewide growth in 2007-08 dipped a half-percent from the previous year's rate of 2.8 percent - although the state population has increased nearly 31 percent since the 2000 census.

Valley economist Elliott Pollack blamed the slow growth rate to a slowdown in migration from other cities because of the jobs being lost in Arizona. He also said there's less illegal immigration from Mexico and other neighboring countries because of the tougher employer sanctions law.

"Plus the people here legally also, the Hispanic businesses, are feeling the brunt of the slowdown in commercial and residential construction, tourism and other service industries," he said.

The slow population rate pattern is especially evident in what had been the "hot" growth communities of the first half of the decade, those in what had been the exurbs.

For example, Queen Creek saw its year-over-year growth rate cut in half.

Pollack said this trend will further hurt retail sales and housing, both of which "are already hurting."

"When you add to that slowdown in revenues because people already here are spending less and slowdown from construction sales tax, it essentially means that there simply is going to be a period when cities are going to have to tighten their belt," Pollack said.

A few communities bucked the trend. Oro Valley managed to maintain its growth rate. Buckeye, a sprawling community on the far west edge of the Phoenix area, increased its size by nearly 26 percent. Phoenix also posted an increase.

Gilbert added more than 10,000 people in a single year, a 5 percent increase, but slower than the 5.3 percent annual increase the prior year. The city grew at the second-fastest rate of other communities of similar size in the nation, having added more than 100,000 residents since the 2000 census, an 88 percent increase.

Peoria was among the top 20 fastest-growing for that period, as well, with a 45 percent growth rate since 2000.  

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