By Matt Roy, Independent Newsmedia
Valley communities are still among the fastest-growing in America, with two list-topping cities highlighted in a recent government report.
The U.S. Census bureau Thursday published results of a yearlong study into population growth, revealing Buckeye and Phoenix as regional and national leaders.
“The South and West continue to have the fastest-growing cities in the United States, according to new population estimates for cities and towns released today by the U.S. Census Bureau,” according to an agency press release. “Among the 15 cities or towns with the largest numeric gains between 2017 and 2018, eight were in the South, six were in the West, and one was in the Midwest.”
The city of Buckeye ranked number one on the list of fastest-growing large cities in the U.S., considering percentage of population increase in municipalities with 50,000 or more residents from July 1, 2017 to July 1, 2018.
Buckeye Mayor Jackie Meck attributed his town’s top ranking, in part, to quality, affordable housing.
“Buckeye provides our residents an excellent quality of life,” stated Mr. Meck. “We offer good housing values but are also staying focused on ensuring we remain a desirable community for years to come.”
Officials suggested rapid household growth will translate to increased business opportunities in the community as well.
“There are also tremendous opportunities in Buckeye for retail shops, services and employment due to our rapid growth,” the release stated.
Buckeye, which increased by 8.5% over the period studied, is followed on the list by New Braunfels, Texas, which notched a 7.2% increase. Seven of the top 15 cities for percentage growth this year are in Texas.
Buckeye officials say they expect to continue apace, noting approximately 2,200 single-family residential permits issued in 2018 and a projection for 2,400 home permits for 2019, according to the release.
The census data revealed the remaining top-ten fastest growing Arizona cities as Queen Creek, Wickenburg, Marana, Litchfield Park, city of Maricopa, Parker, Goodyear, Tempe and Sierra Vista, ranging from an 8.2% annual increase for second place Queen Creek down to 3.3% growth in Sierra Vista.
The average population percentage growth among Arizona’s 92 cities and towns was 1.52% over the year.
The city of Phoenix also topped the bureau’s list of large cities for the greatest numerical population increase, with 25,288 new residents counted during the study period.
This raised the city’s total to 1,660,272 residents to place it fifth on the list of the nation’s most populous cities, following New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston and putting Phoenix firmly ahead of Philadelphia, which has 1,584,138 citizens.
The remaining top five cities for numerical growth were: San Antonio, Texas (20,824); Fort Worth, Texas (19,552); Seattle, Wash. (15,354); and Charlotte, N.C. (13,151).
Ken Strobeck, executive director of the Arizona League of Cities and Towns, said cities face both opportunities and challenges from rapid population growth.
“It’s a mixed blessing. It’s great to have that many people moving here and it shows the vitality of this area,” Mr. Strobeck said. “But it’s also a challenge in meeting the services that those new residents demand.”
Adding new households brings some new revenue, but with more residents cities see heavier burdens on their facilities and services, he added.
“I think the obvious challenge is finding housing for all those folks that are moving in and keeping it in the affordable range, as well as the impact that all the additional population has on infrastructure,” Mr. Strobeck said.
Streets, water supply, wastewater treatment, public services and first responders are all areas impacted by a larger population and these increases come with a larger price tag, he said.
The release of this week’s report also serves as a reminder, he added, of how important an accurate population count will be to local communities as the Census Bureau heads into next year’s 10-year update.
“With the upcoming census, that’s going to be very, very important for how revenue is distributed for all cities and towns in the next decade,” Mr. Strobeck said.
The formulas for how Arizona’s 91 cities and town divvy up the state’s funding are determined by the bureau’s decade count — if a city is under-counted, it will wind up getting less than its fair share, he explained.
“This is the decade census and it sort of resets the baseline,” Mr. Strobeck said. “It’s going to be important to make sure everyone is counted, including all the new residents for this next census.”