For the first time since 2000, the U.S. Census Bureau has reported that the populations of Saint Paul, Minneapolis, and several of their first-ring suburbs, are growing. At the same time, populations in newer suburbs farther out are tapering off. Based on building permit trends, local officials have believed these changes were happening, but this is the first time the bureau has agreed.
Throughout this decade, the Census Bureau has recorded declines in population within Minneapolis, St. Paul, and some older suburbs such as Edina, Bloomington, St. Louis Park and Hopkins. But now they and a few others have reversed course and inhabitants are on the rise.
Demographer William Frey of the Brookings Institution in Washington says it may not just be a blip. “Four-dollar gas may go a long ways toward slowing movement to the suburbs."
This apparent change in fortune for Minneapolis and St. Paul may be related to a shift in methodology that seeks strives towards tracking the movement of college students leaving home and moving into or out of dorms and other housing. For the inner-ring suburbs, though, the reason probably has to do with trends in real estate that are bringing more high-density development to suburbs. The light-rail also seems to be accelerating this trend in some areas. Thanks to the convenience it offers, residents are starting to see the advantages living nearby.
Demographers have been warning the housing industry for years that a profound market shift was coming. Over two years ago in April of 2006 in a newsletter called the "Hot Sheet" published by the Builders Association of the Twin Cities, there were predictions that the number of "move-up buyers," ages 35 to 49, would fall in the last half of this decade as the numbers of apartment dwellers (ages 20 to 29), first-time buyers (ages 25 to 34), and "downsizers" (60 and older) would rise.
The Census Bureau's recent estimates cover the period up to mid-2007. The City of St. Paul is up by nearly 1,000, to 277,251. The population of Minneapolis is up by more than 2,300, to 377,392.