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News / Clark County News

Clark County’s population grows by 13,600, 2nd largest gain in state

By Calley Hair, Columbian staff writer
Published: July 9, 2021, 6:07am

Southwest Washington is among the fastest-growing regions in the state, according to new data released by the Washington Office of Financial Management.

Clark County saw the second-largest population increase by percentage between 2020 and 2021, the data reports. The county’s population rose by an estimated 2.72 percent, amounting to 13,600 more people.

The region’s recent growth tracks with anecdotal reports from local leaders, who have been pointing to robust housing construction trends that persisted even through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among cities, Ridgefield is the fastest-growing municipality in the state by percentage, growing by 18.32 percent in the last year. Only one other city, Black Diamond, cracked double digits.

Ridgefield City Manager Steve Stuart called the June 30 data unsurprising.

“It’s dramatic, especially when you look at percentage growth compared to other cities around the state,” Stuart said. “(But) we see what’s coming through the doors. We see all of the permit applications that have occurred over the last year and a half or so.”

Vancouver came second in per-person growth, with a 4,900-person population increase.

“In some ways, I know we’re busier than we’ve ever been, but I just assumed everywhere was as busy construction-wise as we are here,” said Chad Eiken, Vancouver’s director of community and economic development. “It was confirmation that the business we’re seeing here is real.”

The only county that saw more proportional population growth last year was Franklin County, which barely surpassed Clark County with 2.83 percent growth. Among cities, the only one to add more individuals than Vancouver was, predictably, Seattle (up by 8,400 people).

An early indicator of population growth is the demand for housing permits, Eiken said. Vancouver has approximately 7,000 residential units in development, a major shift from the early 1990s when population growth in the area moved much more slowly.

“That’s a relatively new phenomenon, I think, for Vancouver,” Eiken said. “It’s not just downtown, either, it’s really from our western border all the way to our east.”

Where residential density increases, commercial development tends to follow, he added.

“Vancouver has a great reputation for being a liveable place and a place where people want to raise their families,” Eiken continued. “But I think it’s probably bigger than that. There’s some big demographic changes that are happening. People are getting priced out of Portland, but they want to stay in the region.”

Stuart also mentioned the region’s relative affordability as one factor in its population growth.

“Obviously there’s a housing crisis, and all you have to do is look at the really high prices people are paying for new homes. The shortage of homes that are available — it tells the story of a need people have.”

The data, released last week by the state’s Office of Financial Management, showed that the state added an estimated 61,600 people in 2021, bringing the total population up to 7.77 million people as of April 1.

While the state did grow, it was at a much slower rate than previous years; COVID-19 was linked to an increase in deaths, a decrease in births and a dip in the number of people migrating to the state.

The state and local figures will be checked and finalized in late August following the release of a more detailed breakdown of the last U.S. Census.

Columbian staff writer