Housing Complex

CFO Forecasts the End of D.C.’s Population Boom

Yesterday came the news that, well, we're rich. According to a letter from D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi, the D.C. government is now anticipating $600 million more in revenue in the next five years than previously forecast. That means a big surplus for years to come.

But buried in the appendix to the letter is a more ominous prediction. The rapid population growth that has fueled D.C.'s post-recession economic boom, Gandhi forecasts, is coming to an end. Here are the actual and projected changes in population by year:

2012: 2.2%    (+13,400)
2013: 1.8%    (+11,200)
2014: 1.3%    (+8,600)
2015: 1.1%    (+6,900)
2016: 0.9%    (+5,800)
2017: 0.8%    (+5,400)

How did Gandhi arrive at this conclusion? According to spokesman David Umansky, "the declining rate of growth is related both to some market indicators and to uncertainty." Construction of housing units is expected to slow down, Umansky says, and "with job growth already showing signs of slowing and the impact of sequester on the city’s economy still to be determined, the degree of uncertainty suggests caution in forecasting population growth several years out."

Caution, of course, doesn't mean an actual slowdown. The city has consistently underestimated its budget surpluses; it may be hedging here on population growth as well. We've already seen hysteria on the city's growth numbers when they're in fact still quite good by national standards. But if the declining growth does come to pass, it could spell trouble for D.C.'s growth-fueled economic boom.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • Jacques

    38,000 new residents between now and 2017 may be a slowdown, but it's still about a 6% total increase.

    I'm also curious as to whether these estimates are based on just mobility of adults or if they reflect any projections on behavior of families with children.

  • Drez

    Rising mortgage rates, high cost of existing and new housing, and improved nationwide economics would all come to bear on the local market.

  • Okeydokey

    During the "previous" largest economic boom in DC's history, a period from 2000 to 2008, the District added a consistant ~200 residents a month, or 2,400 a year. In 2009, at the height of the world recession, that number increased by 600% and went from 200 a month to 1200 a month and stayed there. I frankly don't even see how DC can sustain ~5,000 residents per year once the economy recovers more, and the nations workers have choices other than "moving to DC" to find a job.

    It was good for the District while it lasted, but this boom was nothing more than a massive sugar rush precipitated by Uncle Sam throwing trillions of dollars around to save the economy.

  • IAmNotALiberalDemocrat

    Gentrification = high cost of living.

  • Drez

    In the big picture we will do fine. US population goes up every year. GDP goes up each year. And Federal government grows each year regardless of boom or bust or which party is in power.
    DC will continue to grow, just perhaps at a rate that is relatively slower than that of the rest of the country.

  • Actually

    Assuming Gandhi's population estimates are as honest and accurate as his usual revenue estimates, I expect DC to have the population of Texas by 2017.

  • Tom

    Has Doctor Gandhi predicted when DC will become "Vanilla City"?

  • W4Wonk

    VG: Hey Nat, what should we do with all this surplus money?

    NG: Create an ominous problem to distract everyone while we funnel it somewhere and hide the revenue stream!

  • http://metroderp.tumblr.com MetroDerp

    @OkeyDokey: Yep, the TBTF banks in New York definitely all keep their headquarters and huge staffs in Washington. Clearly that's the connection.

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  • Anon2

    "but this boom was nothing more than a massive sugar rush precipitated by Uncle Sam throwing trillions of dollars around to save the economy."

    from 1945 to 2000 there were booms in federal spending that cause the metro area to grow, yet allowed the District to decline. If nothing had changed we would have seen the same since 2000, and since 2008.

  • Asuka

    He forgot to include the number of illegal aliens that will likely come here after DC starts issuing them driver's licenses. Not surprisingly, any surplus the city has will just as quickly disappear, just like they have in all the other sanctuary cities (DC will race to the bottom of it's surplus in trying to out-entice Maryland for all those new illegals). Apparently the Council thinks that 20% unemployment among the district's black residents is just fine.

  • otavio

    It must be stated that DC's CFO office is the last place you would go to get a realistic estimate of DC population projects. I just pulled up a revenue estimate document from December 2011 (just like the one you quoted in this article) and it stated that we would not reach 631,900 residents until FY 2016. Well, we are now at 632,000 in FY 2012! See how flawed that projection was. I'm surprised the WCP folks haven't been keeping track. Forget about even the long range projections coming from them. They can't even get the next year's estimates close. Take some time and look at past estimates from the CFO office to see how useless they can be.

    http://newsroom.dc.gov/show.aspx?agency=cfo&section=2&release=22837&year=2011&file=file.aspx%2frelease%2f22837%2fDECEMBER%25202011%2520REVENUE%2520ESTIMATE%2520LETTER.pdf

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