California Growth Report: Housing Up, Population Down

Good and bad news can be found in the most recent demographic report from the California Department of Finance. The population dropped by nearly 140,000 last year while housing grew at the highest rate in 14 years.

2 minute read

May 4, 2023, 10:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid

California Houses

Frantik at en.wikipedia / Wikimedia Commons

“The total population dropped to an estimated 38.9 million at the start of 2023, down from 39.1 million at the start of 2022, a 0.3% decline,” reports Sophia Bollag for the San Francisco Chronicle on May 1.

“The 0.35-percent population decline for 2022, roughly 138,400 persons, marks a slowdown compared to the recent decline during the COVID-19 Pandemic,” states the 20-page report [pdf] released on May 1 by the demographic unit of the state Department of Finance.

Between 2021 and 2022, California’s population decreased 0.53 percent or 207,800 persons, due mainly to sharp declines in natural increase and foreign immigration.

All but 12 of the state's 58 counties continued to lose population. Among the 10 most populous counties, Riverside (#4), San Bernardino (#5), and Fresno (#10) saw population increases.

“Among California’s 10 largest cities, just three grew: Sacramento, Fresno and Bakersfield, with Sacramento seeing the largest increase at 0.2%,” adds Bollag. Anaheim (#10) saw the largest percentage drop, 2.2%, followed by Los Angeles (#1) at 1%.

On the housing front, the data was more positive, according to the state report.

Over the same [12-month] period [ending on Jan. 1, 2023], statewide housing growth increased to 0.85 percent – its highest level since 2008. California added 123,350 housing units on net, including 20,683 accessory dwelling units (ADUs), to bring total housing in the state to 14,707,698 units.

However, the growth fell short of the governor's goal, notes Bollag.

That’s still a far slower rate of growth than Gov. Gavin Newsom and experts have said could alleviate the state’s housing shortage. For comparison, Newsom campaigned for governor on a platform that included building 3.5 million new housing units by 2025, which would have required the state to build more than half a million more units each year since he took office.

Political ramifications

POLITICO's California Playbook noted in their May 1 newsletter that “the Department of Finance’s most recent forecasts suggest the state’s population decline could continue into 2023 but stabilize the year after, with California picking up a couple thousand people in 2024.”

But even slow growth in the latter half of the decade could cause California to shed a second congressional seat after the 2030 [pdf] Census, a fate it narrowly avoided in 2020.

California was one of seven states to lose congressional seats following the 2020 Census.

Correspondent's note: Click on the tag, 'California Population,' for the latest demographic data from both the state and the U.S. Census Bureau.

Monday, May 1, 2023 in San Francisco Chronicle

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