News You Can Use Builder, with the help of Hanley Wood Market Intelligence, scans news across the nation each month for interesting, informative, and useful items of interest, choosing a handful of the most significant happenings for this report.

Eric Schramm

Desert Blooms

A remote corner of Utah thrives.

1) Utah had the third highest percentage change in population in the country, climbing 23.8 percent in the decade to 2.8 million from 2.2 million. A chunk of that growth came in an unexpected corner of the state, the St. George, Utah, MSA, 303 miles from Salt Lake City and 119 miles northeast of Las Vegas. The MSA, which is close to the Mojave desert, was the second fastest growing in the country, rising 52 percent in the decade, by 47,761 people.

Salt Lake City, however, isn’t looking as positive, with building permits off by nearly 36 percent from 2009, thanks to a drop in multifamily permits. Job growth is also lagging, falling slightly by 0.2 percent last year. And, while home affordability has improved, an increasing number of people are living below the poverty line. Adobe and Twitter, however, are developing new facilities to make the area a data center hub. And the federal government is spending $1 billion to build a data center near Camp Williams.

Chi-Town Exodus

Suburban magnets pull population out of urban core.

2) Chicago was the only one of the 10 most populous cities in the country to lose population in the decade, its head count falling by 200,418, a 6.9 percent drop. Cook County, as a whole, fared better, losing 3.4 percent or 182,066 citizens. The outer suburbs absorbed some of those souls: The Chicago MSA overall grew by 4 percent, 362,789 people. Kendall County, Ill., 40 miles from Chicago, grew 110.4 percent, 60,192 people.

Hanley Wood Market Intelligence (HWMI) analysts expect the city of Chicago to keep losing roughly 20,000 people each year over the next five years. Still, the prognosis for the entire MSA is good, with job losses expecting to slow and improve. Already there’s positive permit activity, and housing affordability is at a record high.

“Chicago has seen the worst of the economic and housing reces-sions. As the national economy and the housing market begin to improve in 2011 and 2012, so will the Chicago market, but at a slower pace,” HWMI forecasts.

Capitol Call

D.C. gains population for the first census in five decades.

3) The District of Columbia’s population grew for the first time since the 1940s, climbing by 5.2 percent to 601,723 people. Jobs and lower home prices were drivers. Jobs grew by 1.6 percent last year according to HWMI. Home prices fell 7 percent to a median of $304,900 at the end of 2010. HWMI expects prices to continue to fall to a six-year low in 2011.

D.C. building permits were up 25.8 percent in 2010, and job growth is expected to accelerate in 2011 as development projects on future Metro lines get underway. However, potential government budget cuts could put a damper on job growth.

Small Explosion in the Palms

An obscure Florida spot outgrows the rest of the nation’s MSAs.

4) Palm Coast, Fla., was the fastest-growing MSA, climbing 92 percent from 49,832 to 95,696 people in the decade. Halfway between St. Augustine and Daytona Beach, the area has no large employers. Rather, the mostly scattered lot development is a bedroom community and a retirement haven with a median age of over 50.

San Antonio downtown just after sunset showing skyline around Tower of the Americas & Alamodome
Jo Ann Snover San Antonio downtown just after sunset showing skyline around Tower of the Americas & Alamodome

Not-So-Lonely Lone Star State

Texas outshines California in population growth.

5) Texas gained more new residents in the past 10 years than any other state, eclipsing California’s traditional lead. Nearly 4.3 million more people lived in Texas in 2010 than in 2000, compared with 3.4 million in California. More than half of that growth came from the Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth metro areas.

The San Antonio and Austin areas also gained, with San Antonio replacing Detroit as the seventh most populous city in the U.S. and the Austin area rising to the seventh most populous metropolitan statistical area (MSA) in the country.

“In the long term, the Houston metro area is expected to recover, regain momentum, and be in a stronger condition than the nation going forward,” says HWMI’s market snapshot.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Chicago, IL, Dallas, TX, Salt Lake City, UT, Deltona, FL.