The suburbanization and segregation of American cities didn’t happen by chance

Most urban planners are taught that public policies, in addition to free market choice, led to the suburbanization, and thus segregation, of most American cities. In fact, some argue that public policies had a far greater role in influencing this migration than anything else. More from the Washington Post:

Suburbs didn’t become predominantly white and upper income thanks solely to market forces and consumer preferences. Inner city neighborhoods didn’t become home to poor minority communities purely through the random choices of minorities to live there. Economic and racial segregation didn’t just arise out of the decisions of millions of families to settle, by chance, here instead of there.

The geography that we have today — where poverty clusters alongside poverty, while the better-off live in entirely different school districts — is in large part a product of deliberate policies and government investments. The creation of the Interstate highway system enabled white flight. The federal mortgage interest deduction subsidized middle-income families buying homes there. For three decades, the Federal Housing Administration had separate underwriting standards for mortgages in all-white neighborhoods and all-black ones, institutionalizing the practice of “redlining.” That policy ended in the 1960s, but the patterns it reinforced didn’t end with it.

“Exclusionary zoning” to this day prevents the construction of modest or more affordable housing in many communities. Decisions about where to create and whether to fund transit perpetuate these divides. Government ideas about how to house the poor lead to Pruitt-Igoe and Cabrini-Green, and then government’s fleeting commitment to those projects led to their disintegration.

Hamilton County Posted Largest Population Gain in Cincinnati MSA in 2013

New population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau last week show that Hamilton County’s population slide has ended and that the Cincinnati metropolitan region remains the largest in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana with more than 2.1 million people.

In 2013 Hamilton County added more than 2,000 new people – making it the biggest gainer in the 15-county tri-state region. Warren County came in a close second with just under 2,000 new people.

Boone and Kenton Counties in Kentucky and Clermont County in Ohio also posted population gains of more than 1,000 people. Meanwhile five rural counties in the region saw their population decline, with Brown County in Ohio losing the most at an estimated 165 people.

The Cincinnati region as a whole is estimated to have added just over 8,000 residents in 2013.

Cincinnati MSA Population Changes 2010-2013

Over the past year, the region also posted gains in terms of international migration, but saw continued losses for domestic migration. Net migration to the Cincinnati region was actually negative, but thanks to births significantly outpacing deaths, the region was able to post its overall population gain.

When compared to Columbus and Cleveland, Cincinnati lags in terms of international migration numbers.

Columbus, meanwhile, is the only region out of the big three in Ohio that posted gains in both international and domestic migration – making it the only metropolitan area in the state to have positive net migration in 2013.

Regionally, Hamilton County was the only county to see more than 1,000 new international migrants. But at the same time, Hamilton County also recorded the largest domestic migration loss of any county in the region.

While most all of Hamilton County’s population gains can be attributed to births exceeding deaths, approximately half of Warren County’s gain can be attributed to its positive net migration over the past year. Aside from Warren County, only four other counties in the region experienced positive net migration.

Ohio Metropolitan Region 2030 Population Projection

The population estimates continue to look bad for Cleveland, which recorded regional population loss once again. Since the 2010 Decennial Census, Cleveland has posted average annual population losses of 0.2%, while Cincinnati and Columbus have posted gains of 0.4% and 1.1% respectively.

Should these trends hold over the coming years, Columbus will follow Cincinnati’s lead and pass Cleveland, once the state’s most populous metropolitan region, in terms of overall population by 2017.

Due to the faster growth taking place in Columbus, it will also eventually catch and pass Cincinnati as the state’s most populous region a decade from now. Cleveland, meanwhile, will see its regional population dip below two million in 15 years.

A long forecasted but yet realized trend appears to be taking hold in the second decade of the new millennium. Instead of cities bleeding population to suburban areas, rural areas are now losing their population to suburban areas while cities hold on to their core population while also continuing to attract international and some domestic migrants from suburban and rural areas.

The Decennial Census in 2010 was a splash of cold water for many cities, including Cincinnati, who had thought that they had already reversed decades of population loss. Perhaps these new trends, now being realized, will finally result in the population gain so many cities have been longing for in 2020.

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.

As the knowledge economy takes greater hold, where does Cincinnati fit in?

As Cincinnati’s new leadership settles into their self-empowered roles of merely paving roads and keeping streetlights on, how does that position the city and region in an ever-changing economic landscape that is favoring fewer and fewer places? By not investing in placemaking strategies and transit, the city’s future may appear bleak unless a change is made. More from The New York Times:

“The most profitable businesses no longer involve heavy machinery; they are rooted in ideas, which, it turns out, spread most effectively when knowledge workers are densely packed together. The top handful of major metropolitan areas — New York, Chicago, Los Angeles — account for a hugely disproportionate share of overall U.S. economic growth, Glaeser says. There is every reason to believe this trend will continue and, most likely, increase. That will draw even more of the high-earning elite to big cities and many of the poor, too, seeking jobs and assistance in these centers of economic growth.”

Is Cincinnati prepared for the emerging economic influence and preference of the Millennials?

The most educated generation the world has ever seen is starting to flex its muscle when it comes to the location of corporate headquarters. For years it has been said that Millennials would and are choosing places to live before choosing places to work, and with increasing evidence of the talented, young professionals turning down jobs for companies in suburbs, this seems to be true. What is Cincinnati doing to position itself as one of the small group of cities who win over the largest and most educated generation in American history? More from Yahoo! Finance:

After decades of big businesses leaving the city for the suburbs, U.S. firms have begun a new era of corporate urbanism. Nearly 200 Fortune 500 companies are currently headquartered in the top 50 cities. Many others are staying put in the suburbs but opening high-profile satellite offices in nearby cities, sometimes aided by tax breaks and a recession that tempered downtown rents. And upstart companies are following suit, according to urban planners. The bottom line: companies are under pressure to establish an urban presence that projects an image of dynamism and innovation.

As young workers start families, they may care more about soccer fields and good schools than sushi restaurants and bike paths, priorities that may send them out of the urban core. But the employers that sought them out in the city are unlikely to follow them back to the suburbs, said Mr. Phillips of the Urban Land Institute. “Given energy prices and traffic conditions, it’ll be a long time before we see another wave of suburbanization.”

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.