A Tale of Two Cities (and Three Counties)

In my February article I reported on the latest population estimates for the Greater Lansing Area and indicated that the Lansing Area is lagging behind the growth of some nearby areas such as Livingston County. The news this month are two related items: (1) despite only a moderate pace of population growth, housing development has been growing at a steady pace since 2000; and (2) there are pockets of explosive growth in the region that are drawing new residents—and new customers for a wide variety of goods and services—from each of the Greater Lansing Area’s three counties.Nationwide patterns of housing development and growth are evident right here in the Greater Lansing Area, including both traditional suburban single-family housing on one-quarter acre up to 10-acre lots along with a growing emphasis on condominium housing–apartment-style, attached town houses, and free standing units—in the region’s more built up areas. Housing development since 2000 in each of the three Greater Lansing Area counties exceeds population growth by a substantial margin. A comparison of population growth with housing growth from 2000 to 2003 (the latest year available) is illustrated below.


County                              Population Growth (percentage)    Housing Growth (percentage)
Clinton County                 4.4%                                               11.4%
Eaton County                    2.5%                                               4.3%
Ingham County                 1.0%                                               2.7%
Greater Lansing Area       1.8%                                                4.2%

Source: Bureau of the Census, 2005.


Overall, housing growth for the entire state of Michigan was 3.5 percent from 2000 through 2003. Housing growth for the entire Lansing Area was about 20 percent higher than the rate of growth for the entire state. Since 2000, two of the region’s three counties also grew faster than the statewide rate. The rate of increase in housing in Clinton County during this period was about three times the rate for the entire state. Housing growth for each of the region’s counties was also substantially higher than the county’s population growth during this same period.  Clinton County saw an increase of 11.4 percent in housing since 2000—more  than 2.5 times the county’s rate of population growth.

Housing estimates for each of the cities, villages, and townships have not been published yet, but population estimates for each of these localities in each of the Greater Lansing Area’s three counties are pretty good clues to where the greatest housing action has been, and where it has not been, in recent years as new residents need to be housed.  

The region’s two largest cities—Lansing and East Lansing—have had very different stories over the past few years. Population in the City of Lansing dropped to approximately 118,500 by 2003. Declines were about the same in both the Eaton County portion of the city (4,857, down 35 residents) and the Ingham County portion of the city (113,522, down 957 residents). Despite this drop, Lansing still remains the region’s largest city in terms of residents, and it clearly remains the business and industrial center of the region. Some of the decline of recent years may also be stalled or even reversed by new condominium developments that are currently underway downtown and on Lansing’s east side as well as some additional condominium construction that has been proposed near Oldsmobile Park. The City of East Lansing fared somewhat better, but only because of the city’s expansion northward into Clinton County. Agricultural land north of Lake Lansing Road just a few years ago has block after block of new student housing, and more recent, single-family tract housing has been springing up adjacent to the new student housing, and both this new housing and their residents are too new to be counted in the data reported here.

Through 2003, the part of East Lansing located in Ingham County actually saw a slight decline of an estimated 39 residents or 0.1 percent. In contrast, the Clinton county part of the city jumped from less than 100 residents in 2000 to almost 800 in 2003—a seven-fold increase attributable mainly to an influx of Michigan State University students. Other Ingham County locations that have reported substantial growth during the first three years of this decade include Delhi Charter Township (1,466 residents, 6.5 percent), Mason (661 residents, 9.2 percent), and Williamston (343 residents, 10 percent). Perennial growth leader Meridian Charter Township was flat for this period, adding only 22 new residents.

Clinton County is a study in contrasts. Most of the county’s growth was in Bath Township (1,801 residents, 23.9 percent) and DeWitt Township (866 residents, 7.6 percent). In contrast, nine communities in the county actually declined since 2000, including DeWitt City (-203 residents, -4.3 percent) and St. Johns (-231 residents, -3.0 percent). Eaton County has been more consistent with growth evident in almost every city and township. Only Delta Charter Township exhibited growth that was out of the ordinary during this decade.  Delta Township saw an increase of 942 residents (3.2 percent) that brought its total population up to 30,500.

While much of the Greater Lansing Area’s housing and population growth is found in suburban and nearby rural areas that are adjacent to the central cities, there is some evidence that growth is picking up in a wider range of communities around the region.  This will bear watching by the business community, local government, and housing developers alike.
Lawrence S. Rosen, PhD is the director of health programs at Public Policy Associates, Inc, a Lansing-based public policy research, development, and evaluation firm with a nationwide clientele.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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