Friday, August 22, 2014

TOP STORY >> Metro Trends figures show positive trend

Leader senior staff writer

While central Arkansas has experienced a decline in the rate of population growth, Jacksonville appears to have turned the corner on its loss of population — a loss attributable in part to the demolition of old housing on Little Rock Air Force Base, according to Jonathan Lupton, demographer and author of Metro Trends 2014, Health and the Built Environment.

Jacksonville has reversed its decline from 2000 to 2010 and is growing again, according to Lupton.

From the 1950s through the late 1980s, Jacksonville experienced a population boom, in large part because of the establishment of Little Rock Air Force Base, but Jacksonville was also a bedroom community for people working in Little Rock and North Little Rock.

“But the 2010 census showed a loss of about 5 percent from the 2000 census,” Lupton said.

As part of the Air Force’s housing privatization initiative, outside companies came in and demolished many older homes, but fell behind schedule to build replacement homes. The base population declined from 6,600 to 2,900, Lupton said.

Since 2010, Jacksonville’s population increased from 28,364 to 29,303 and Sherwood increased from 29,523 to 30,537. That’s an increase of 3.3 percent for Jacksonville and 3.4 percent for Sherwood.

Metroplan’s 2014 study shows a slowdown in the regional growth rate. Growth since 2010 averages about 1.1 percent annually, less than the 1.4 percent between 2000 and 2010. Between 2010 and 2013, Arkansas’ population grew by 1.5 percent, the U.S. by 2.4 percent and the Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway statistical area by 3.5 percent.

While employment in-creased during 2014, regional job growth has been slower than the national average, according to the new report.

While in 2010-2014 Bryant, Cabot and Conway are the fastest growing central Arkansas cities, the rate of that growth has slowed in all cities except Jacksonville, Little Rock and North Little Rock.

In central Arkansas, Saline County has the fastest rate of growth, with Bryant outpacing the field with a 3.7 percent annualized growth rate between 2010-2014.

Cabot was second, at 2 percent, followed by Conway, 1.9 percent, Maumelle, 1.4 percent, North Little Rock and Benton at 1.2 percent, Jacksonville and Sherwood at 0.9 percent and Little Rock, 0.6 percent.

“The regional growth pace remains faster than state and U.S. population growth,” according to Jonathan Lupton, Metroplan demographer.

Growth in Arkansas is the lowest since the 1980-1990 decade, according to Metro Trends, but growth in central Arkansas is twice the rate of the state as a whole.

The suburban cities are growing fastest, as in the past, but at a slower pace than in past decades. The Central Area has picked up a bit.

Between 2010 and 2014, Pulaski County added nearly 10,000 residents, a gain of 2.6 percent.

About 6,000 of that increase was north of the river, an increase of 3.4 percent.

Maumelle added nearly 1,000 residents for a 5.4 percent population increase, and North Little Rock increased by 4.4 percent, followed by Sherwood, 3.4 percent, and Jacksonville, 3.3 percent.


Population in Lonoke County increased by 4 percent from 68,356 to 71,122.

In that county, Ward had the greatest rate of increase, 11.6 percent to 4,538, followed by Austin, 9.9 percent to 2,239. Cabot increased by 7.8 percent to 25,627.

Lonoke’s increase of 45 residents represented a 1.1 percent increase. England, Carlisle and other small communities lost population.

In the wake of the housing collapse, there has been a shift toward rental living, according to Lupton, but “locally the change has been less dramatic.”

“Multi-family construction markets are prone to greater cyclical swings,” Metroplan concludes.

The data suggests that renting is becoming more common. National trends suggest a likely rebound in multi-family construction.


In the area’s larger towns and cities, 813 permits for multi-family housing units were issued in 2013, the lowest in 10 years representing a dramatic decline from recent years — 1,795 in 2010, 1,543 in 2011 and 1,357 in 2012.

While single-family homes accounted for only about 44.5 percent of permits in 2010-2011, in 2012 and 2013, they accounted for 52.7 percent. Complete data for 2014 is not available yet.

In 2013, no multi-family permits were issued in Benton, Bryant, Cabot, Jacksonville, Maumelle and Sherwood.

North Little Rock issued 396, Little Rock issued 265, and Conway, which issued 152, is the only city where multi-family permits increased.

Jacksonville issued 14 multi-family permits over those four years, with only Sherwood, Benton and Hot Springs Village issuing fewer — none.

Ninety-seven single family housing permits were issued in Cabot in 2013, a decline of four, while Jacksonville issued 100 in 2012, down to 31 in 2013. The 100 new permits is uncharacteristic and probably includes significant new construction at Little Rock Air Force Base.

Sherwood’s single-family permits increased about 10 percent from 2012 to 2013, with a total of 158.


A third of all Pulaski County adults are obese and, not coincidentally, 30 percent are physically inactive even though 89 percent have access to exercise — by far the highest in central Arkansas counties, according to the report.

Only about one in five has a long commute to work, meaning the percentage of those walking or biking to work could be much higher.

Things are not much better in Lonoke County, where the obesity rate is 31 percent and 29 percent are physically inactive. Only 35 percent have access to exercise, and 44 have a long commute.

Across the U.S., 25 percent of adults are obese and 24 percent are inactive, while 76 percent have exercise access and 33 percent have a long commute.

The study is by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which is involved in health-related matters.

Not surprisingly, between 2008 and 2012, Little Rock Air Force Base had the highest percentage in central Arkansas of workers who commute by foot or bike — between 8.8 percent and 12 percent.

By way of comparison, less than 1 percent of Jacksonville-area residents commute by bike or foot to work.

Sherwood is about the same, while between 0.31 percent and 3 percent of Cabot-area commute by bike or foot to work.

“Depending solely on cars to run errands and commute to work reinforces sedentary tendencies and may increase other health risks,” according to Metro Trends.