ypsi by the numbers

Over the course of the past few weeks, I’ve been exchanging emails with a local urban planning student. Following are a few clips from his emails that I thought that you might find of interest.

So you made a comment about “people moving out of Ypsi”, and it occurred to me this morning that I’d never looked at the deeper data.

Duh: It’s well-known that household size is dropping nationwide, therefore population will drop unless you build housing faster than household size drops. (This is a big part of why Water Street was intended as mainly residential – you need to keep adding housing in order to keep population the same.)

So I checked out Census 1990, Census 2000, and the SEMCOG 2006 Estimates.

* Ypsilanti population: 24846 / 22362 / 21027… obviously, dropping. This is the number that gets all the attention.

* Average household size: 2.38 / 2.15 / 2.02… dropping, even faster than I had realized.

* Occupied households: 8551 / 8551 / 8702… ayep – we actually have MORE occupied homes in 2006 (estimate) than in 2000 or 1990. So it’s not as if people are moving out and leaving vacant homes; we actually have an increasing number of households — it’s just that the average household size is dropping. This was news to me.

* Vacant households: 770 / 664 / 849… vacant housing units actually went down from 1990 – 2000 (we must have torn down or converted away housing units); estimated to have gone up from 2000 – 2006. So we actually (estimated) gained a lot of households, including some vacant, but somewhat more occupied, from 2000-2006. Part of this is no doubt Peninsular Place, which added 160-some housing units, and probably contributed to some vacancy downtown.

SEMCOG’s numbers typically need to be taken with a grain of salt, but we won’t have any actual numbers until about 2011-2012, when the next census report is released, so SEMCOG’s the best we’ve got. Population is, sure, decreasing, but that’s the case for any city in the country that’s not building fast. (A2’s population only grew by 0.2% from 2000-2006.)

Here are the Ann Arbor numbers for comparison.

1990 census / 2000 census / 2007 semcog estimates
* Population: 109,592 / 114,024 (+4.0%) / 114,265 (+0.2%)
* Occupied households: 41,657 / 45,693 (+9.7%) / 47,248 (+3.4%)
* Average household size: 2.32 / 2.22 / 2.15

So A2’s household size is dropping, but not as fast as ours, while the 2000-2007 # of households to # of population change is pretty dramatic. 1600 new housing units for only 200 new residents.

Occupied households includes stand-alone houses, condos, apartments, the works. Essentially, if it’s got four walls, a bathroom, a kitchenette, and its own mailbox, then it’s a household.

Non-household population, or “group quarters population”, includes people living in hospitals, dormitories, jails, or other “institutional” uses.

Within A2’s census 2000 occupied households, 54.7% are renter-occupied.

(Our 2000 renter occupancy share was 67.1%, which is high, but not that much higher than A2’s. Especially since the majority of our rental units are ghettoized up on Huron River Drive and LeForge, and don’t really function as part of the city.)

Let me find housing style…Here we go. Census 2000, 41.8% of A2’s households are 1-unit detached (“houses”), while 35.8% of Ypsi’s are.

So, assuming that the census data is good and that these 2006 projections are accurate, what does this tell us about Ypsilanti?

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  1. Bonnie
    Posted August 21, 2007 at 1:44 am | Permalink

    The numbers are solid, and nothing that nobody’s seen before. However, they (of course) don’t paint a full picture. Your student has given us a picture of how people live (renting/owning) and where people live (er, kinda, with the detached housing stats), and population change over time. Those are all *things*, but I really don’t think that any of them cause another. To get a full picture, you need to look at the rest of the Census/ACS/SEMCOG data- demographics of people who live here (income, education, etc), industry sectors represented- shit, because EMU’s a fairly beastly bit of the city, I’d even throw in some data from EMU- enrollment changes, for instance, as they likely affect area businesses to some degree, as well as the number of people that EMU employs.

    The housing stats he shows just say that some people have moved out, and other people are taking up more space. Doesn’t say why, doesn’t say who. Not a complete picture or one from which to draw causal inferences.

  2. egpenet
    Posted August 21, 2007 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    In a word … sprawl.

    Most of the visionary folks who brought us Water Street don’t even live in the city. Nor do many movers and shakers in Depot Town and EMU. It’s a free world.

    Generations ago, when the merchants and their families lived in the second or third floors of our downtown, or they were rented out, we had the numbers. We had larger families. The Clarkes, who lived in my house and had a furniture store downtown and a couple of other businesses, had three or four kids and were related to the Shires or Whortleys here in town who had large families. Times change.

    Re-read Mr. SanFrancisco’s book. A new generation with different focuses, living a wide variety of lifestyles, etc. is coming into town. Looking at old numbers is fun and interesting, but those days are mostly buried in Highland Cemetery.

    I have been pressing for CURRENT numbers and trying to get people here to think ahead ten to twenty years … 20/20, duh. Let the historians write the histories. (Let the dead bury the dead.) We have a foundation to build upon … EMU, historic preservation, Huron River, the color green is our Ypsilanti color, not dark blue … green is the direction people want to go on the entire planet. And answering the clarion is Growing Hope, Food Coop, VG Kids, the D.A.Y., rain barrels and many others. Even thee H.D.C. has a new Fact Sheet on Alternative Energy applications in the Historic District. And the buses are still running.

    What will take creativity is thinking out of the box about how best to use downtown building spaces. Innovative ways for several business to use the same building. We need city help in zoning and other ways to “reload” our downtown spaces with boutiques, offices, artist galleries … having AM businesses that shift to PM businesses, making downtown a 24/7 place to live, work and have fun.

    This will all happen, because the momentum in the culture, in Michigan and Ypsilanti is building. Look at all the activity going on now downtown. Where did all that come from? Private entrepreneurs … creativity …
    the people.

  3. Drew
    Posted August 21, 2007 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    The birth rate also needs to be factored in. We in the blue states typically have fewer children. Hence the smaller household size. We’ll keep losing elections until we figure it out and stop using rubbers.

  4. Posted August 21, 2007 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    What’s really fun is flipping back and forth from this post on declining household size and your The McMansions Strike Back post on increasing house size. What do we do with all that space?

  5. egpenet
    Posted August 21, 2007 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    With all the wet weather we’ve had recently, Drew, my rubbers (Muck Boot Co. brand) have proved essential.

    Other than that, “I done know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ babies,” Drew.

  6. BVos
    Posted August 22, 2007 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    We also need to look at the age cohorts as they relate to housing in the city. Couples in their early 20s may be a growing segment of the population buying or leasing housing. This segment typically does not have children or are just starting a family. So their household size would be at or very near 2.

    Another growing trend nationally are the empty nest baby boomers. They didn’t have many kids compared to previous generations and now these kids are off to college or out of the house. I don’t know what the stats are on this segment of the population in Ypsi, but this could be a factor as to why household size is dropping so fast in Ypsi.

    If the early 20 crowd and the baby-boomer crowd are a higher percentage of the population than most cities, that could be the main explanation as to why our population trends are the way they are.

    As far as comparing AA to Ypsi, this is a somewhat useful exercise but not entirely useful. A2 has had a significant downtown housing boom and continues to have a lot of housing under construction. This hasn’t happened in Ypsi. It also hasn’t happened in most other areas of SE Michigan or Michigan (except for the Royal Oaks, Detroits, etc. which are the exception to the wider trends).

    A far better comparison would be to compare Ypsilanti’s population trends to SE Michigan, the state and the nation to get a better picture of how we’re doing. I’ve run some back of the napkin numbers before and Ypsi is doing just fine population wise. We’re on the leading edge of the smaller household size, but it wouldn’t be the first time Ypsi was on the cutting edge of a population trend. And this isn’t a bad trend in the grand sceme of things IMO. We need to focus on our niche population segments (as long as those niches are good) and use them as economic positives and selling points for the city.

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