Central Oregon

Census estimates show C. Oregon still growing

Bend still under 80,000? 'Welcome' signs based on too-high estimates

BEND, Ore. - Bend and Deschutes County have continued to grow, albeit more slowly, in the past few years, despite the economic downturn that now shows signs of easing, according to new U.S. Census Bureau estimates released late Thursday.

The new figures estimates Deschutes County gained 2,194 residents, or 1.4 percent in the year ended July 1, 2012, the third-fastest growing county in Oregon (behind Washington and Multnomah counties). That puts the county population at 162,277 people.

Another estimate shows the county added 4,544 residents in the 2-plus years between the April 2010 Census and last July, a 2.9 percent growth rate that's fourth-fastest in the state.

As for Bend, the Census Bureau estimates Bend had 79,109 residents last July 1, a 2,470-person gain since the 2010 Census, for a 3.2 percent increase.

Interestingly, Portland State University's Population Research Center estimates growth in Bend at only one-third that level, only 816 residents, and shows 1,654 fewer residents last July, at 77,455.

That's a big change from the 2000s, when PSU's estimates often had higher growth rates for Bend than the Census Bureau, said Bend Senior Planner Damian Syrnyk.

"The difference between the two estimates might be due to method and data sources," Syrnyk said.

According to the Census Bureau estimates, Bend's population growth since 2010 represents 54 percent of the growth in the county's population, Syrnyk said.

But what about all those "Welcome to Bend" signs that show the city already having topped 80,000 residents years ago? Did hundreds, even thousands of people leave Bend? Not really -- at least, there's no data indicating Bend lost population.

Instead, the key is the word "estimate" affixed to all of these numbers, except the once-a-decade actual head count by the Census Bureau.

PSU's estimates actually showed Bend reaching a peak population of 83,125 by July 1, 2010 -- but once the Census counted only 76,639 residents as of April 1 of that year, PSU corrected its estimate downward.

"In PSU's case, they base year-to-year change in population on changes in the housing stock, which is estimated from annual records for new building permits," Syrnyk said. "So with the development activity we saw from 2004 through 2006, it's not surprising that the estimates were high, and assumed that many of the new units built were still occupied in 2010."

Many weren't occupied, of course, as the wave of foreclosures hit. But there are new signs of a housing turnaround, too.

CoreLogic reported Thursday that Bend-area foreclosure rates in March had fallen to just over 3.5 percent, though still a bit higher than the 3 percent U.S. rate. The report says Bend-area mortgage delinquencies also are dropping, to nearly 6 percent.

Meanwhile, the Federal Housing Finance Agency reported Thursday that the Bend metro area -- defined as all of Deschutes County -- again broke back into the Top 20 in home price growth, out of all 300 metro areas nationwide.

It ranked Bend at 20th, with first-quarter home price index increase of 3.71 percent. The year-to-year price index for Bend grew by 7.69 percent, though the five-year figure shows home prices still down from 2008 by a sobering 34.3 percent.

The federal estimates show Crook County grew by just 67 residents, or 0.3 percent in the year ended last July, to a population of 20,729. But the agency says Crook County actually lost 249 residents, or 1.2 percent, in the 2010-2012 time frame – this as Facebook arrived and built the first of its massive data centers.

Jefferson County also barely grew, by 63 residents, last year, according to the Census Bureau, also a 0.3 percent rise, to 21,749 residents. Since 2010, the county is estimated to have added just 29 residents, a 0.1 percent increase.

Other new Central Oregon city population estimates for July 1, 2012 show:

--Culver had 1,360 residents, up a bit from the 2010 Census figure of 1,357

--La Pine at 1,687 residents, compared to 1,653 in 2010

--Madras at 6,351 residents, compared to 6,046 in 2010

--Metolius at 708 residents, a bit lower than the 710 in 2010

--Prineville with 9,173 resients, down from the 9,253 counted in 2010

--Redmond at 26,924 residents, a boost from the 26,215 in the 2010 Census

--Sisters with 2,118 residents, compared to 2,038 just over three years ago

Oregon, meanwhile, is estimated to have grown by 68,280 residents, or 1.8 percent from 2010 to 2012, for a total population of 3.89 million.

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