Here’s the good news: Thousands of people are still moving to Charlotte every year.
Here’s the bad news: Thousands of people are still moving to Charlotte every year.
It’s the engine that’s driving much of Charlotte’s rising real estate markets, from new home construction to office towers to apartment buildings. But the region’s growth spurt also comes with growing pains, such as traffic and contentious questions about mass transit and toll lanes. And then there’s the long-term question: Will the influx of younger renters moving to urban areas in Charlotte want to stay, or move out to the suburbs and cheaper, surrounding counties?
At a symposium this week about the Charlotte region’s changing demographics, City Council member Kenny Smith, who represents rapidly growing SouthPark, said the boom comes with many positives.
“It has led to increased densities and highly sought-after amenities,” said Smith. But he said he also hears from anxious constituents who fear traffic, taxes or just plain too many people will soon hurt the city. “I sometimes hear fear mongering from citizens: “Charlotte is about to become – fill-in-the-blank, a city in decline.”
109Average number of new residents added to the Charlotte region per day, from April 2010 to July 2015.
Here are three crucial things to know about the region’s population boom:
Why developers aren’t worried about overbuilding
Rebecca Tippett, director of Carolina Demography at UNC-Chapel Hill, said Mecklenburg and the surrounding counties added a total of about 34,448 net new residents last year (About 123,000 new residents moved in and 89,000 moved out during that time).
She said the region has added an average of 109 new residents a day from April 2010 to July 2015. That’s a full apartment building, at 300 units, in four or five days.
So if you’ve been wondering why Charlotte apartment developers are optimistic about the market, despite the record influx of almost 25,000 new apartments in the pipeline, there’s your answer. To be sure, not everyone who moves here rents, but Tippett said they’re more likely to rent than own. Only 22 percent of new residents who moved within the last year own their residence, compared with about 66 percent of people who have lived in the area for longer.
And in uptown and surrounding areas, Tippett said almost half of new residents live in apartment buildings with 50 units or more – another boon for apartment developers.
The sponsors for the forum included the Greater Charlotte Apartment Association, Charlotte Regional Realtors Association and prolific apartment developers including Northwood Ravin, Terwilliger Pappas and Crescent Communities – an indication of how key the region’s demographics are to their businesses.
New residents: well-educated, younger
Tippett said the migrants tend to be younger and more educated than the county’s population as a whole: 20 percent of Charlotte’s population is 18 to 34 years old, compared to 45 percent of the people migrating here.
“Moving is really a young person’s game,” said Tippett.
And 47 percent of the people moving here have a bachelor’s degree or more.
“We are net-importing talent,” said Tippett. The Charlotte region’s growth rate of 9.4 percent over the past five years makes it the ninth-fastest growing region (Austin is the fastest-growing, with 16.6 percent growth).
Another surprise: They’re not all from Ohio, despite what it feels like sometimes in Charlotte (I once had three sets of neighbors, all from Ohio on my small block).
“I hear Ohio a lot, and I did relocate from Ohio, but it’s never in the top five,” said Tippett.
Instead, the number one place people move to the Charlotte region from: Other parts of North Carolina. That accounts for 25 percent of in-migration. Another 10 percent come from South Carolina, and six percent from New York. Seven percent are from other countries – India, followed by Mexico and China.
Will they stay in Charlotte?
But there’s one potential problem for Charlotte: While the region as a whole is growing, many of those who come to the city eventually move to surrounding counties such as York, Cabarrus, Union and Iredell, where real estate is cheaper, school systems have a good reputation and commutes aren’t long enough – yet – to dissuade them.
“All the surrounding counties gain from Charlotte outflows,” said Tippett. “Mecklenburg is funneling in young, highly educated adults. And when they move, they’re primarily moving to what we would call communities with suburban family profiles.”
The millennials are not going to be young for long. There’s going to be a demand, I think, for suburban lifestyles coming along in a decade or more.
Chuck McShane, director of research, Charlotte Chamber.
Pat Mumford, director of Neighborhood and Business Services for the city of Charlotte, said he wonders sometimes if large swaths of the city are turning into areas where people don’t have permanent attachments.
“Are we treating a large geographic part of our community as a nomadic zone where people come for a little while and they leave?” said Mumford. He was referring to the growth of corridors with thousands of new apartments, such as South End along the light rail line.
Another big question: Will the current generation of renters filling up Charlotte’s inner neighborhoods eventually want to move, en masse, farther out to suburbs and surrounding counties?
“The millennials are not going to be young for long. There’s going to be a demand, I think, for suburban lifestyles coming along in a decade or more,” said Chuck McShane, director of research for the Charlotte Chamber.