Newcomers flock to Clark County

    Clark County gains nearly 7,000 residents from April 2015-April 2016.

    Clark County’s population grew to 461,010 this year and continues to grow, primarily because people are moving here.

    That may be a no-brainer to anybody clued into the tight local housing market, but population estimates released Thursday by the state Office of Financial Management show just how substantial migration to the area is.

    While the county population grew by about 10,000 people between 2015 and 2016, almost 7,000 of them were newcomers. That’s the biggest gain in newcomers since 2005-2006.

    Keep in mind that people moved away from Clark County between 2009 and 2010. And, from 2010 to 2011, the county gained just 189 newcomers.

    “Back then, people were trapped because of the housing market. A lot of people couldn’t sell their houses and couldn’t move,” said Yi Zhao, Washington’s chief demographer. “Migration was low nationwide.”

    The recent surge in new residents is part of the economic recovery story.

    Between 2015 and 2016, Washington’s population grew by 1.73 percent — the fastest pace since 2007, OFM said. About 87,000 people moved to Washington, bringing the total population to 7,183,700. Newcomers account for over 70 percent of the state’s population growth. Seattle alone gained more than 39,000 new residents.

    Clark County’s population grew 2.03 percent from April 1, 2015 to April 1, 2016, making it the third fastest-growing county in Washington behind King (2.55 percent) and Kittitas (2.44 percent) counties.

    Meanwhile, housing construction lagged behind population growth. The number of housing units in Clark County grew by 1.57 percent between 2015 and 2016, according to OFM data. There is a house for every 2.6 people in Clark County. At the 2010 Census, there was a house for every 2.5 people and vacancies were lower.

    Local cities

    Vancouver gained 3,100 residents, putting its population at 173,500. The city was sixth in the state for the number of people gained; it was bumped out of a higher ranking by Sammamish and Tumwater, which saw population jumps from annexation.

    Those two Puget Sound cities impacted Ridgefield’s ranking, too, but the small city of 6,870 people still continues to be one of the fastest-growing cities in the state. Having grown 7.34 percent over the last year, Ridgefield ranked fourth among cities for fastest population increase. Consider that Ridgefield’s population was 4,763 at the 2010 Census.

    New homes are quickly popping up in Ridgefield and will continue to bring in newcomers. The city issued 172 new home permits this year as of May. In 2015, the city issued 228 new home permits.

    East Clark County also saw growth from 2015 to 2016. Camas gained an estimated 600 residents, growing the population by 2.83 percent to 21,810. Washougal gained 390 residents, growing by 2.57 percent to 15,560 people.

    Battle Ground grew about as fast as the county overall, 2.03 percent, with the population estimated at 19,640 people.

    The county’s least-populated cities, La Center and Yacolt, each gained a handful of people. La Center has an estimated 3,140 residents and Yacolt has 1,655.

    With four strong years of growth in the books for Washington, Zhao said, this could be the peak.

    “We’ll have to wait and see,” she said.

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