Grand Island has already achieved metropolitan status by reaching 50,000 population, counting people who live inside the city limits as well as those who live in the residential areas just outside the municipal boundaries.
Now, Grand Island is very close to the 50,000 mark for people who live within the city.
According to the population estimates division of the U.S. Census Bureau, Grand Island’s population was 49,989 people as of July 1, 2012.
That means Grand Island’s current population has likely passed 50,000, according to David Drozd, research coordinator for the Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Grand Island almost certainly will pass the 50,000 milestone when the estimate for July 1, 2013, is released in 2014.
According to the Census Bureau estimate, Grand Island’s population has grown 3 percent since the official census was taken on April 1, 2010, and it announced that the city’s population was 48,520 people.
Grand Island’s 2012 population is up by almost 1.4 percent since the estimate for July 1, 2011, when the number of city residents was an estimated 49,313 people.
The population for Kearney and Hastings also has grown since the official 2010 U.S. Census. Kearney’s estimated population as of July 1, 2012, was 31,790 people, an increase of 3.3 percent from its official 2010 Census count. Hastings has grown 0.6 percent to reach an estimated population of 25,058 as of July 1, 2012.
Cairo, Doniphan and Wood River also have estimated populations that have grown as of July 1, 2012, compared to the official 2010 Census count.
However, county seat towns and villages in some of Central Nebraska’s more rural counties have smaller estimated populations as of July 1, 2012, compared to the official 2010 count.
Those communities include Albion, Aurora, Broken Bow, Burwell, Cairo, Central City, Fullerton, Greeley, Loup City, Ord, Osceola and Taylor. The one exception to that trend is St. Paul, whose estimated population has grown since the U.S. Census in 2010.
Drozd said he sometimes takes city population estimates with a grain of salt, especially for large cities such as Omaha that are ringed by other communities and suburbs.
He said estimates are derived in large part from building permits, which help determine population growth. The total estimated population growth for each community is then pro-rated out to each municipality based on its size.
However, more population growth should have been allocated to some of the fast-growing communities and suburbs around Omaha, with less population growth attributed to the city of Omaha itself, Drozd said. He said that problem was exacerbated because the city of Omaha also has a three-mile jurisdiction beyond its city limits for issuing building permits.
Those issues became obvious when the results of the official 2010 Census were released.
However, Drozd said they are less of a problem for communities such as Grand Island, which is more of a stand-alone community within Hall County. He also pointed out that even if the estimate for Grand Island is not quite accurate, it still is the official number for determining Grand Island’s eligibility for certain grants and other programs.
Chad Nabity, Hall County regional planning director, was asked whether existing housing stock might be holding Grand Island’s growth down a little.
Nabity pointed out that 210 additional market-rate apartments were started in Grand Island between July 2012 and November 2012. He said he used the term market-rate because that means developers are building the apartments without any subsidy for either the construction or for the people who will be renting those apartments.
He said the people building those apartments believe there will be enough renters for them to recoup their investment and make a profit.
Grand Island’s supply of single-family homes is limited right now, Nabity said, noting that he recently talked to a Grand Island real estate agent who said there were 124 single-family homes on the market.
Nabity said Grand Island has about 13,000 single-family homes, so those 124 homes represent less than 1 percent of the single-family homes in the community.
He said there are several developers in Grand Island who are continuing to build single-family homes in existing subdivisions. But he pointed out that all the new homes going on the market will be selling for $200,000 or more.
Nabity said that Ray O’Connor’s proposed Copper Creek subdivision would put homes on the market for $140,000. Houses in that price range would be starter homes for many families and also be a “move-up” home for other families in Grand Island.
Nabity said O’Connor still must get approval for tax-increment financing for the proposed subdivision.
He noted that if O’Connor clears that hurdle and begins building, he probably would construct between 15 and 30 homes per year in the Copper Creek subdivision.
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