HOUSTON – (By Dale King) – Urban densification, the suggestion that homeowners throughout the USA – possibly led by Millennials, empty nesters and senior citizens — are fleeing from the suburbs to the urban lifestyle at the core of metropolitan America, may be a short-lived trend or, perhaps, a myth, say studies conducted by CBRE Research.
Suburban growth has surpassed increases in urban population figures, and have since 2010, say CBRE researchers, citing the latest census and county population estimates.
“Not only are suburbs growing at a rapid rate, Texas suburbs are leading the country in population growth,” said Robert Kramp, director of research and analysis for the Texas-Oklahoma-Arkansas region of the CBRE commercial real estate firm. “Four of the five fastest-growing large cities, for the 12 months ending July 2016, are located in Texas.”
In fact, Kramp noted, the city of Conroe, Texas, about 40 miles north of downtown Houston, is the fastest growing large city in the entire nation, adding population at a rate “11 times the national average.”
People of all ages are heading for the suburbs, he noted. And even though many metro centers are developing public transportation, including light rail systems, for an expected onslaught of new residents, the automobile is de rigueur in nearly every city in America.
Kramp offered a line of logic he said tends to support this outside-the-city vitality.
“Emerging suburban areas are prone to being dubbed as ‘fast growing’ due to the smaller population base and availability of developable land. But looking at the increasing share of suburbanites as a percentage of a metro area is more telling, as this shows that the suburban spread is surpassing urban core densification.”
“Within most of these largely populated areas, the suburbs have been growing faster in terms of both job and population numbers since 2010. According to the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Postal Service, within the 51 U.S. metro areas with more than a million people, average neighborhood density rose in only 10 of them.”
“In other words,” Kramp added, “more than 80 percent of large American metros have become more suburban.”
U.S. Census Bureau figures for May 2017, as reported by CBRE, say that in Austin and Dallas/Fort Worth, the suburban share of the metro area increased by 1.4%. Houston’s suburban portion took a 1.3% hike while San Antonio’s ‘burbs grew .6%.
“In absolute terms, the largest cities in Texas made the fast-growth list – San Antonio, third; Dallas, sixth; Fort Worth, seventh; Houston, eighth and Austin, ninth, with numerical population growth ranging from 17,738 to 24,473.”
“Interestingly enough, San Antonio surpassed New York City by 3,300 new residents within the city limits.”
Even large suburban counties – those with at least 500,000 residents – grew at exponential rates, said Kramp. Between 2010 and 2016, Fort Bend County, southwest of Houston, expanded by 27%. Williamson County, north of Austin, increased 25%. Montgomery County, home of Conroe, Denton County, just north of Dallas and Fort Worth and Collin County, east of Denton County and home of Plano and McKinney, each grew by more than 20%. Texas as a whole hiked its populace by 10.8%.
The key to all of this, said Kramp, is size. Texas is big – very big. “Texas is one of the fastest growing states. Every day, 400 people move to Dallas/Fort Worth. That’s an Airbus 380 every day. Houston is the second fastest growing city.”
Texas draws people looking for jobs and who want to settle down and start a family. Employers are located downtown “because they want to be downtown. You can live in the suburbs and drive to work. Texas is based on privately owned vehicles.”
People who want to live in the urban core can do so in Texas, Kramp said. Or they can settle in suburbia. He calls that choice “the southern denominator.”
“Urbanization and suburbanization can coexist in fast-growing areas with high net migration areas such as Texas,” he said. “In the Lone Star State, population growth is an undeniable trend no matter which side of the fence – or train tracks – you’re on.”