Charlotte Among Fastest Growing Cities in US

July 10, 2008

Charlotte and Raleigh rank among the top 10 U.S. cities in population growth, and Charlotte has risen from the nation’s 20th-largest city to its 19th, according to U.S. Census estimates released Wednesday.

Also, Cary, a Raleigh suburb, is the fifth-fastest-growing U.S. city of more than 100,000 people, the Census Bureau says.

They’re all indicators of the Carolinas’ continued growth, which experts expect to continue despite indications that a faltering economy will slow the boom, at least for a while.

According to the estimates, all major cities and towns in the Charlotte region grew between July 1, 2006, and July 1, 2007. Huntersville, Cornelius, Davidson, and Fort Mill and Rock Hill, S.C., are all showing population increases of more than 5 percent.

The Census Bureau distinguishes between growth rate and numbers of people. Charlotte, for example, grew by only 3 percent. But it gained an estimated 17,471 people, ranking it ninth among U.S. cities in number of new residents. Raleigh, with an estimated gain of 15,148, ranked 10th.

Other N.C. cities with smaller population increases had higher growth rates. Cary gained an estimated 8,259 people from 2006 to 2007. But its smaller size compared to Charlotte and Raleigh meant a high growth rate of 7.3 percent.

The estimates are “consistent with what’s been going on for some time in these areas,” said state demographer Bill Tillman. But the bureau’s estimates are a little more than a year old, and they may not account for recent downturns in the housing and job markets, experts said.

“Right now, the growth is slowing a little bit because it’s harder for people to leave where they were because they can’t sell their house,” said Tom Hanchett, a historian at the Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte.

Strong job growthThe bureau issues the estimates every year. They’re based largely on local governments’ building permit and housing unit data.


Charlotte had 17,471 more people in mid-2007 than mid-2006, according to the Census Bureau. Last year, the city also ranked ninth in population growth, gaining an estimated 14,403 people from July 1, 2005, to July 1, 2006. Raleigh ranked 12th last year.

Mark Vitner, a senior economist at Wachovia, credited strong job growth with bringing more people to the region but noted the trend is slowing with the economy.

Vitner also said the area benefited from not having housing prices surge here. “People who may have moved to Florida in the past now move to Charlotte,” Vitner said.

Many of those people are Northerners.

Roland Gardner, 59, moved to Charlotte 13 months ago from Alfred, a small town in western New York state. He said he took a job offer from an old friend who owns a car-appraisal business and wanted to expand to rapidly growing Charlotte.

Gardner had lived in New York his entire life but “wanted to do something different,” and now says he wouldn’t dream of going back home.

“I told my family, ‘If something happens to me, bury me down here. Don’t bring me back to New York,’” Gardner said. “The people are friendly, the weather, I just love it here. This is like heaven for me.”

Trying to ease the strainStill, Gardner said he has one complaint: traffic. “This area is growing faster than the roads are,” he said.


Strain on the road system is one of the inevitable consequences of growth, as are pressure on schools and the water system. County commission chair Jennifer Roberts and Charlotte Mayor Pro Tem Susan Burgess said Wednesday that those are among their main areas of concern as the area grows.

Planners at the Charlotte-based Centralina Council of Governments are trying to ease the pressure through a planning effort that includes the 75 or so local governments in the Charlotte region.

The idea is to begin regional planning for infrastructure, transportation, schools and other areas likely to be affected most by continued growth, said Rebecca Yarbrough, the COG assistant director who’s managing the project.

“We’re trying to get them to work together to craft unified policies,” Yarbrough said. “The real key is figuring out, how do we do it?”

The annexation issueAnother factor in the growth: North Carolina’s aggressive annexation laws, which allow cities to easily absorb unincorporated land and its residents.


Since 1987, the city has added an average of 13,219 people every two years through annexation, said Jonathan Wells, a program manager with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Department.

Last year, Charlotte gained about 7,000 new residents by annexing neighborhoods in southern, northern and western Mecklenburg. But state officials forecast that Wake County will surpass Mecklenburg as the state’s most populous county in the next five years or so, Tillman said.

“Common sense would say Mecklenburg County’s eventually going to run out of room, and people are going to live in the surrounding counties,” he said. “What I don’t know – and wish I did – is, what’s the point at which the growth stops in Mecklenburg… I don’t know. The towns can’t annex into South Carolina, I know that.”


The Truth about Charlotte’s New Home Market

June 18, 2008

A great site has emerged (Charlotte Between The Lines) that’s trying to give some factual data about Charlotte’s real estate market, given the national media’s attention of what they call a “slumping” housing era.

With all the attention the national real estate market is receiving, it’s easy to lose sight of Charlotte’s relative strength. But the truth is real estate is local and our piece of the world is one of the tops in the nation right now. Why is Charlotte strong and will it last? Why has Charlotte avoided the real estate bubble? What do the experts say about Charlotte’s future, both near-term and down the road?

Check out the facts. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them with me. I’d be happy to help you navigate this great market in finding your next home. Some nice deals are being offered by builders.


Charlotte Home prices here still gaining

June 12, 2008

The Charlotte region again ranks among the nation’s urban markets with appreciating real estate.

The Charlotte region notched its third month Tuesday as the only one of 20 urban markets nationwide still showing rising home prices. Area prices rose a little less than 1 percent for the 12 months through March, according to the widely followed S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index. That’s less of an increase than in previous months but compares favorably with a 14 percent national decline on what is often a person’s largest investment.

In addition to the annual gain, Charlotte also was the only one of two markets in which March prices rose slightly compared with the previous month. The monthly upticks in Charlotte and Dallas are the first for any of the 20 markets since September, according to the reports. The two hardest hit areas – Las Vegas and Miami – have seen annual declines of about 25 percent. Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco also posted drops of more than 20 percent.

By another broad measure, Charlotte area home prices gained 6 percent during the same time frame. That put the Charlotte region at No. 14 out of 292 markets ranked by the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, which evaluates a somewhat different pool of sales. Both indexes evaluate repeat sales of single-family homes, an important gauge of changes in value.

The OFHEO quarterly index released last week shows Charlotte with a five-year return of 29 percent. The index also shows that markets with recent declines still have much higher long-term gains than Charlotte. Miami, for example, has a five-year return of 92 percent while Las Vegas is up 65 percent.

Charlotte has so far been spared steep declines because the area didn’t experience the sharp gains during the nation’s real estate bubble.


Housing Prices Still Rising? Only in Charlotte

May 6, 2008

Charlotte was the sole major U.S. city where housing prices have risen over the last year, according to results revealed today for a widely watched index. Housing prices dropped in February at the fastest rate ever, the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller found. The results indicate that the housing slump is gaining momentum and showing no signs of letting up.

The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home price index of 20 cities fell by 12.7 percent in February versus last year, the largest decline since its inception in 2001. Seventeen of the 20 metro areas reported record annual declines.

The index dropped 10.7 percent in January and 9.1 percent in December.

“There is no sign of a bottom in the numbers,” David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P, noting that all 20 metro areas have declined for six straight months.

Half of the cities saw home values plunge by double digits led by Las Vegas at 22.8 percent and Miami at 21.7 percent. Those two areas experienced the sharpest appreciation in 2004 and 2005 with annual increases above 50 percent and 30 percent.

Only Charlotte posted a positive return of 1.5 percent year-over-year.

The narrower 10-city index declined 13.6 percent in February, a record drop in its two-decade history.


Child Abuse Awareness Month

April 15, 2008

I got this message from a friend of mine, Bruce Doskocil. Just trying to help spread the word on an important issue. The rest of this post are his words…

As some of you know, I work for a non-profit in Charlotte, The Family Center, that works to prevent and treat child abuse and neglect.

April is Child Abuse Awareness Month (CAAM), and as part of this campaign, I’ve been maintaining a blog to note and document CAAM activities and information in Charlotte and around the U.S, parenting resources, and tips for parents and others for recognizing child abuse or neglect.

Every parent occasionally feels overhwelmed, and it is a strength as a parent to know when to ask for help. Even if you’re not a parent, all of us have a role to play. If you know about or suspect child abuse or neglect, report it, and offer to help out a parent who seems stressed.

And now, finally, I’m asking you to help me harness the power of the internet to reach as many people as possible for this important cause. Please send this to as many people as possible and ask them to be aware of Child Abuse Awareness Month and to visit and comment on my blog.

Take care and thank you!

You can visit the blog at:

Jobs still being added in Charlotte

April 15, 2008

Despite a slowing economy, Charlotte’s business community continued to grow in the first quarter, according to a report released Tuesday from the Charlotte Chamber.

There were 282 new businesses or expansions announced in the first quarter of this year, and those firms will create 3,010 new jobs, the report said.

That’s slightly fewer than in the first quarter of 2007, when 286 new businesses or expansions were announced, creating about 3,070 jobs.

This year’s numbers are up from 224 new or expanded businesses in the first quarter of 2006 and 251 in the first quarter of 2005.

Charlotte Chamber researchers attribute the trend to Charlotte’s growing commercial development and healthcare industries.


Union County – 7th Fastest Growing County in Nation

March 20, 2008

Newcomers propelled two Charlotte-area counties to rank among the nation’s fastest-growing last year, according to a U.S. Census analysis released today.

Union County ranked seventh among fast-growing U.S. counties with populations over 10,000. Mecklenburg, meanwhile, was 10th in sheer number of people gained in that time. It added about 32,000 people.

The numbers came as no surprise to Bill Tillman, North Carolina’s state demographer.

“Some of the same people are losing and some of the same people are gaining,” he said.

Union County advertises good schools and lower taxes. It has grown at a faster rate each year since 2002.

The residential boom has strained the water and sewer systems, left schools overcrowded and the county deep in debt. Union has more debt per capita than any large or medium sized county in the state.

Its population grew to about 185,000, according to the estimate. That’s up almost 50 percent from 2000.

Union’s student population has grown by 84 percent in the last decade, said county schools spokeswoman Luan Ingram. In that time, the system has built 17 schools and spent more than $500 million on construction, she said.

Ingram, who has spoken to national groups about school growth, says she believes Union’s school construction rate is unique.

Overall, the 11-county Charlotte region grew by about 79,000. Mecklenburg, with a population of 867,000, is by far the region’s biggest county. It grew by 3.8 percent.

Bob Morgan, president and CEO of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, expects that growth to continue. He said it means economic opportunity for the region, and also challenges — traffic, pollution and water shortages.

“But it beats the alternative,” he said.

N.C. counties that ranked among 100 fastest growing

Union (7th)Brunswick (17th)

Cabarrus (29th)

Wake (33rd)

Johnston (58th)

Pender (71st)

Mecklenburg (82nd)

Iredell (90th)

Growth rates of area counties:

Union (7.2 %)

Cabarrus (5.0 %)

Mecklenburg (3.8 %)

Iredell (3.6 %)

Lincoln (2.69 %)

Gaston (2.3 %)

Catawba (1.7 %)

Rowan (1.4 %)

Stanly (1.0 %)

Anson (-0.4 %)