Sprawl Slows Down in California

<p>New census figures show that suburban growth is slowing down in the Sunbelt cities of California, Nevada and Arizona.</p>
March 26, 2008, 8am PDT | Nate Berg
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"The Census Bureau has released its annual estimate of county population changes, and as they have for years, the numbers for July 2006 to July 2007 show wild growth in Sunbelt cities in eastern California, Nevada and Arizona. But this year they also hint that the rate of growth may be slowing, and that coastal urban and suburban areas could be gaining ground. Riverside County, for instance, added 79,995 people in 2006 but just 66,365 last year -- not a reverse but perhaps a respite. San Diego's more modest growth, on the other hand, nearly quadrupled from 6,704 in 2006 to 26,497 in 2007."

"These numbers hardly suggest that sprawl is dead. It's best to view them as yet more evidence of the housing downturn. Demographer William Frey of the Brookings Institution spoke of a "migration correction." Just as bubble prices are declining -- in Los Angeles County, the median home price is down almost 13% from a year ago; County Assessor Rick Auerbach recently announced that his office had cut values on 41,000 properties by an average of $66,000 each -- boom-time mobility must decline too. As homes in urban areas lose market value, owners become loath to sell. They hunker down where they are, putting off buying that bigger, newer house on the fringes of the city or in more affordable markets such as Phoenix or Las Vegas."

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Published on Monday, March 24, 2008 in The Los Angeles Times
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