Reston Spring

Reston Spring
Reston Spring

Monday, April 20, 2015

US Census estimates say people are leaving Fairfax County.

An article by Antonio Olivo in the Washington Post, April 20, 2015, says Fairfax County experienced the worst net migration in the Washington metro area in 2014 according to US Census data.  

Here's how the article begins:

 After decades of expansion, new census numbers show that population growth in the Washington region has slowed dramatically, with Fairfax County, Arlington County and Alexandria seeing more people move out of those communities than move in over the past year.
The numbers offer stark evidence that a region defined for much of the last half-century for its affluence and growth is entering a different phase, when federal spending cuts are slowing job gains and declining suburbs are presenting new challenges for local leaders — even as pockets of extreme wealth continue to boom.
The portrait is emerging at a time when the nation is recovering from a deep recession that the Washington region largely avoided.
“Especially for young people, this may be the tip of the iceberg,” said William H. Frey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “If the broader picture is that there are more jobs in a place like Atlanta or Charlotte, then maybe some of that is pulling people away from D.C.”
The new census estimates show a dramatic trend in “out­migration” last year, with the number of people moving away on the rise — and the number moving in going down. . .
Now, Fairfax (County) is also known as the epicenter of “sequestration” — the federal budget cuts of 2013 that eliminated, according to a George Mason University analysis, 10,800 federal jobs (a 3 percent decline) and many hundreds more among federal contractors. Last year, federal spending in the region was $11 billion lower than 2010 — a 14 percent decline — according to the analysis.
All of which helps explains how Virginia’s largest county has edged closer and closer to an outright population decline. . . .

    Click here for the rest of this article.  

Long term net outmigration would have a number of effects on Fairfax County and the other counties where it is occurring, virtually all of them negative, especially if the total population starts sinking.  (We're gaining population only because of births at this time.)  Demand for housing (and, therefore, house prices) will decline, slower--or no--growth in the commercial office market that the County Board is relying on to boost employment and tax revenues in Tysons and Reston, real estate tax rates may need to increase to offset the losses or absence of growth.  In general, it may mean less economic activity in the County (vice the "booming" economy we've experienced).  On the other side of the coin, it could mean reduced growth (or actual declines) in County expenditures on a variety of programs, starting with schools (fewer children) and other public infrastructure.  

It will be important to see if this apparent trend continues or if its just an aberration.   In fact, it could even represent US Census error.  For example, the US Census estimated Reston population was approaching 65,000 people late in the last decade.  The 2010 census showed it to be less than 59,000.  Possibly the US Census is over-correcting for its earlier estimating errors.

Maybe most importantly, the article features a photo of Diane Blust, long-time Reston resident and former President of Sustainable Reston.  She is hard at work living the lifestyle she espouses near Harpers Ferry, WVA.

Diane Blust spreads fresh soil around the perimeter of her house on April 2 in Harpers Ferry, W.Va. Blust lived in Reston, Va., for 37 years before moving to Harpers Ferry to start her permaculture and sustainable living homestead. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

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