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Austin 2000-2010: the urban core mostly lost population

March 9, 2011
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Back on central Austin’s growth or lack thereof.  I’ve reported the data for zip codes 78704 and 78741, central neighborhoods to the south and southeast of downtown.  78704 lost population during the last decade due to shrinking average household and the loss of a good chunk of its population of children.  The adjacent 78741 experienced solid growth, especially amount families with children.

The city’s demographer, Ryan Robinson, has created a map showing the net population change between 2000 and 2010 for all Austin census tracts.

It confirms what I’ve speculated elewhere:  most central Austin census tracts lost rather than gained population between 2000 and 2010.  

First, here’s his map of central Austin census tracts:

Austin urban core 2000-2010

Austin urban core 2000-2010

As I noted, only three census tracts in 78704 (bounded by Town Lake, I 35, Ben White and the Barton Creek green belt) experienced growth.  Most of the remaining tracts in west Central Austin — the area bounded by 183, Town Lake, 360 & I-35 — also lost population.

Again, I predict the data will show that the declining populations are caused by shifting demographics rather than declining demand for the neighborhoods.   Singles and couples without children are displacing larger households in these older, expensive central neighborhoods.  It would take more housing at 2000’s occupancy rate just to maintain the 2000 population.  Throw in higher vacancy rates caused by the recession and you have mild population loss.

It is easy to spot the census tracts that added a lot of housing because they are the only green ones.  Downtown more than doubled its housing stock between 2000 and 2010.  The Old West Austin/Clarksville tract also grew, but that’s only because of large new apartment and condominimum developments on the tract’s western fringe (including a couple on the east side of Lamar).

West Campus and the University of Texas also added large amounts of new housing and therefore population.  A couple of tracts (yellow-green) saw only slight growth.  The only other green tract — i.e., the only other tract to see significant growth — in west Central Austin is the tract that includes the Triangle, a large, dense (and controversial) infill project.

Other infill projects were scattered through this area, though, including in census tracts that lost population.  It’s worth speculating whether we would be seeing steep population declines without this infill development. 

I should add, though, that in a handful of cases, old apartment complexes were torn down and not yet redeveloped.  The Stoneridge Apartments on South Lamar were demolished in 2007 or 2008; construction on their (denser) replacements began just last week.  The steep population decline in East Riverside, for example, is one of the few cases where population decline was caused by the loss of housing stock.

If Austin as a whole added 135,000, and central Austin was flat at best, then the new people must be at the fringes.   And so they are. 

Travis County 2000-2010
(Again, via Ryan Robinson.)

Travis County 2000-2010

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