Comprehensive Study Needed to Examine Cincinnati’s Migration Problem

Cincinnati has a problem with attracting immigrants.

While it is the largest metropolitan region in Ohio, Cincinnati lags behind both Cleveland and Columbus in attracting foreign migrants. Even as Cleveland continues to lose population and struggles with a weak economy, Cincinnati, with its much stronger economy and national recognition, attracts fewer of America’s newest residents.

More alarmingly, at 4.6%, Cincinnati ranks behind all of its regional competitors (Columbus, Indianapolis, Louisville, Pittsburgh, St. Louis) in percentage of foreign-born population. Columbus (10.5%) and Indianapolis (8.4%) have double or nearly-double the percentage of foreign born population. Cincinnati only bests Pittsburgh and Louisville in terms of attracting immigrants over the past three years.

International Migration 2010-2013

The United States as a whole continues to attract millions of new immigrants. They’re just not coming to Cincinnati at the same rate as elsewhere.

Mayor John Cranley’s (D) recent announcement to start an initiative to grow the immigrant population in Cincinnati is a welcome one. With statistics showing that immigrants are more likely than non-immigrant Americans to start a business, a flux of foreign residents would be good for Cincinnati’s economy in more than one way.

Cranley is not unique among mayors in cities across the nation that have suffered massive population losses since the 1950s. From Baltimore and Philadelphia, to Detroit and Dayton, cities across the country are now targeting immigrant communities in order to help bolster populations and foster economic growth.

Preferably, Cincinnati’s quest to attract new immigrants will be part of a larger plan to attract new residents, period. While lagging behind in attracting immigrants, the region also continues to shed existing residents to other parts of the country.

International - Domestic Migration in 2013

Local leaders should authorize a comprehensive study to find out why Cincinnati struggles so greatly with attracting domestic and international migrants. With a growing economy and incredible regional assets, there is no reason why Cincinnati should fail so miserably at attracting new people.

It may prove wise to set city funds aside to create some sort of media blitz that touts the benefits of the city and the surrounding region. With a recent Gallup poll showing that 138 million people around the world would choose to move to the United States if given the opportunity, the market for new immigrants is surely present. Some sort of economic incentive would help as well. Tax breaks for immigrant businesses and incentives to live within city limits will help attract immigrants of all economic levels.

It is not a stretch to imagine that Columbus’ ability to attract and retain so many more immigrants than Cincinnati is due to the presence of Ohio State University, one of the nation’s most prominent public universities. As a result, Cranley should take heed and foster greater cooperation between the City of Cincinnati and the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University, using those nationally-recognized institutions to attract even more newcomers.

At the end of the day, however, immigration is a national issue. For that reason, regional leadership should be in active dialogue with Cincinnati’s Congressional delegation and lobby them to support immigration reform and initiatives that will help attract immigrants not just to the U.S. in general, but to the Cincinnati region specifically.

Dayton Secures $1M in Capital Funding to Launch Bike Share System in Spring 2015

Dayton Bike Share MapThe City of Dayton, in collaboration with Bike Miami Valley, Downtown Dayton Partnership and the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission (MVRPC), plans to start a bike share program in the spring of 2015.

The system will operate similarly to Cincinnati’s planned bike share system announced this past February. The main difference between the two, however, is that Dayton has secured $1 million in capital funding to build out the initial system of more than 200 bikes and 22 stations located throughout Dayton’s center city.

According to city officials, the bulk of the capital funding will come from a grant from the Federal Highway Administration Surface Transportation Program. The City of Dayton will then provide an additional $250,000 funding for capital costs and initial operations.

The accomplishment of securing the capital funding was one not lost on those at the press conference. Scott Murphy, director of business development at the Downtown Dayton Partnership, emphasized that Dayton is the second city in Ohio to secure the capital for a bike share program.

Even though Cincinnati officials have yet to secure the capital funding for their planned bike share system, they remain optimistic they can do so and start operations in 2014 – ahead of Dayton’s planned launch early next year.

Also unlike Cincinnati where a non-profit entity will manage the system, the Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority will take the lead in managing the program, and in selecting an operator. According to Executive Director Mark Donaghy, a request for proposals will be issued in the next three months, and an operating contract will be awarded this summer.

Dayton officials estimate that the infrastructure will be delivered this coming winter, with the program becoming operational in the months thereafter. Bike Miami Valley, a local cycling advocacy group, spurred the whole effort to bring bike share to Dayton with the preparation of a feasibility study.

Findings of the study indicated that Dayton has a higher level of suitability for a program than some similarly sized cities that already have bike share, such as San Antonio, Chattanooga and Madison, WI. The study also estimated that Dayton’s system would handle approximately 50,000 to 70,000 annual bike share trips.

Local leaders are giving the program enthusiastic support.

“Bike share is a natural extension of our transit system,” stated Donaghy, who went on to say that the RTA was the first transit system in Ohio to equip its full fleet of buses with bicycle racks.

Such efforts to embrace bicycling have made Dayton a bronze level Bicycle Friendly Community, as rated by the League of American Bicyclists. Community leaders in Dayton, however, intend to become reach the platinum rating by 2020.

Brian Martin, Executive Director of MVRPC, stated that the program will expand and enhance existing services of the Regional Transit Authority, while also helping reduce auto dependency. In part due to the study conducted by Bike Miami Valley, and the tangible changes taking place in Dayton’s center city, local leaders say they knew this was the right decision.

“The number of housing units in downtown Dayton has doubled in the last 10 years,” Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley told UrbanCincy. “We know this is what people want.”

How do the housing markets in Ohio’s largest metropolitan regions compare?

A surge of new home construction rang in the new millennium just over a decade ago, but that surge quickly ended when the now infamous housing bubble burst, subsequently leading to the Great Recession.

In recent years the economy has begun to rebound, but the housing market still has not quite come back. In particular, the home ownership housing market has not come back.

This had led to a new surge of housing construction as developers work to build product for a still growing U.S. population. Cities have seen much of this new apartment construction as the rebounding economy has coincided with the entrance of Millennials into the housing market.

The narrative has been that rentals are surging while home ownership is sagging, but according to newly released data from the U.S. Census Bureau, this common narrative is only partly true.

Home Ownership Rates in Ohio MSAs
Apartment Vacancy Rate in Ohio MSAs

In Ohio’s five largest metropolitan regions the data shows that home ownership rates have settled out around the same levels they were at nearly two decades ago. And while apartment vacancy rates have been plummeting in recent years, they are still higher than they were in the 1980s and 1990s.

Akron and Cleveland are virtually tied for the highest home ownership rates in Ohio at 66%, but this is down from their respective peaks of 80% and 77% around the height of the housing bubble. At 61%, Columbus scores the lowest of Ohio’s five biggest metropolitan regions in terms of home ownership.

Columbus boasts the state’s lowest apartment vacancy rate at 6%, which is approaching the capital city’s all-time lowest apartment vacancy rate of 5% in 1990. The Dayton region has the highest apartment vacancy rate in the state, with its apartments sitting empty nearly twice as much as those in Columbus.

Both when it comes to home ownership and apartment vacancy rate, Cincinnati seems to serve as the state’s trend line. For the year ending 2013, the Queen City had a home ownership rate of 63% and an apartment vacancy rate of 9%.

While the aforementioned data seems to cloud the discussion about housing market trends, additional data also shows that overall inventory and prices of owner-occupied units is decreasing, while inventory and pricing of rental units is increasing.

Locally, Cincinnati is in the midst of an apartment building boom, with thousands of units across the region currently under construction. While home permits have increased recently, those numbers pale in comparison.

Episode #30: Looking Back at 2013 (Part 2)

U Square at The Loop

On the 30th episode of The UrbanCincy Podcast, we bring you the second half of our conversation looking back at 2013. In the first half our discussion, we talked about recent events surrounding the Cincinnati Streetcar.

In this second half, we discussed a variety of development projects across the region. We speculate on the future of the Uptown area, with new projects such as U Square, other housing and mixed-use developments, a demolition on UC’s campus, and the upcoming new interchange at Martin Luther King Boulevard. We also cover downtown projects such as the Dunnhumby Centre, the Tower Place and Pogue’s Garage redevelopments, and the mystery of Phase II of The Banks. Finally, we touch on Manhattan Harbor, Blue Ash Summit Park, The Kenwood Collection, and the new Brent Spence Bridge.

Aerial photography of U Square by Jake Mecklenborg for UrbanCincy.

Are Regional Population Trends in Cincinnati and Dayton Entangled?

Anyone in this region knows that Cincinnati and Dayton are closely influenced by one another. Perhaps you could say that Cincinnati, being significantly larger, influences Dayton more than Dayton influences Cincinnati, but you might not want to say that to anyone in charge at the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport.

A new study conducted by Alberto Hernando de Castro for the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Paris found two trends in the population growth and decline of Spanish cities. His team was able to determine these trends by developing a model based on population data collection from 8,100 Spanish municipalities between 1900 and 2011.

One of the trends Hernando’s team noted in the study was that a city’s growth rate depends on the growth rates of neighboring cities. And it was specifically noted that cities within 50 miles of one another become “entangled” in a way that if one grows, the other grows as well. It is this trend that is perhaps most interesting for the Cincinnati-Dayton metroplex, where the two core cities are less than 50 miles apart.

Cincinnati-Dayton Region Population Change Entanglement

The primary cities of both regions peaked in terms of their population in the middle of the 20th century, but metropolitan area population growth has more or less continued for both up through the 2010 Census.

The Dayton metropolitan statistical area (MSA), with 841,502 people, has suffered two decades of population decline – the first from 1970 to 1980 and the second from 2000 to 2010. The Cincinnati combined statistical area (CSA), meanwhile with 2,172,191 people, has never recorded a decade of population loss.

With that said, the population growth trends for the two cities do tend to mirror one another. From 1950 to 1980 both regions saw their population growth slow significantly, with Dayton leading the way. The two areas then saw an uptick from 1980 to 2000, with Cincinnati leading the way.

If the Cincinnati-Dayton metroplex is in fact following this trend noted by Hernando and is researchers, then it would appear that Dayton’s slowing growth in the middle part of the 20th century brought Cincinnati’s down with it, or whatever factor led to this change in Dayton had similar effects on the nearby Cincinnati market.

The same would be true, but in opposite fashion, for the latter part of the century when Cincinnati’s rebounding population growth seemed to pull Dayton along with it – even reversing the slight population decline the Dayton MSA experienced in the 1970s.

The other trend noticed by the researchers was that cities seem to grow based on a 15-year memory – meaning what happened within the past 10 to 15 years serves as a reasonable indicator for what will happen in the next few years. This analysis, of course, is more accurate the closer the years are to the base year, and less accurate the closer the data is to the 15-year extreme.

If this trend is also true, might it mean that the Dayton MSA will post a population gain between 2010 and 2020, as a result of Cincinnati’s population gains lifting up Dayton’s population decline as it did in the 1980s? Or will it mean that the population gain for the Cincinnati CSA will be even less than the 6% gain posted last decade, as a result of whatever is dragging down population gains in Dayton?

Time will tell, but so far the two noted trends seem to apply to the Cincinnati-Dayton metroplex. In what way, exactly? Good question.

Will Northern Kentucky’s Manhattan Harbour ever get built?

Northern Kentucky leaders certainly cannot be faulted for their lack of big plans, but their implementation has been suspect over the past decade. A multi-billion plan in Newport, for example, called Ovation sits as an overgrown lot on the city’s riverfront. Meanwhile, in Dayton, KY, officials there have been working for years to try to make Manhattan Harbour a reality. The 73-acre riverfront development would include high-rises, condos, shopping, a marina and more, but will it ever happen? More from the Cincinnati Enquirer:

DCI’s project with the city has been scaled down from a $1 billion investment to a $300 million to $500 million development. The newest version will have 45 upscale single-family building lots under the name the Commons, a combination multifamily, high-rise condominiums and single-family homes with a mix of commercial development in an area called the Lookout, and luxury multifamily apartments in an area called the Vistas.

Manhattan Harbour’s mixed-use development has been in the works since 2005, when DCI signed the development agreement with the city, which owns the land. In 2008 and 2009, nearly a half-billion dollars in state and local tax incentives were approved for the project. A $10 million sewer line was laid in 2010 to prepare for development. A 20-year tax increment financing district was created for the site.