Population growth estimates the U.S. Census Bureau released earlier this month should be enough to keep government leaders and others interested in Galveston’s future up at night.
The bureau reported a lot that wasn’t surprising.
League City’s population, for example, increased by 1,690 people from July 1, 2017 to July 1, 2018, according to the census bureau. The city’s population increased to 106,244 people. It’s grown by 22,167 people since 2010.
Not much news there beyond an official stamp on the obvious fact that League City is and has for 10 years been the county’s largest city and the fastest growing city.
Also not surprising was strong growth the bureau reported in Texas City, which added 691 people from 2017 to 2018.
Texas City might still be known mostly for smokestacks, but the story there is quickly changing to be about rooftops.
Its population growth rate from 2017 to 2018 was just slightly behind League City’s, and at 49,153 residents it will be the second biggest city in the county by next year.
What was surprising in the estimates, which are based on the bureau’s analysis of birth and death records, as well as data about domestic and international migration, is that Galveston’s post-Hurricane Ike population rebound slowed to a trickle between 2017 and 2018.
Officially, that storm shaved about 10,000 people from Galveston’s population, driving it down to 47,795 people, from a pre-storm census of about 57,000 people.
Many people in positions to know, however, argue the city’s population already had dropped significantly from the official 57,000 before Ike came ashore in 2008, showing that something other than storm-surge flooding was eroding the population.
The city’s population began growing fairly well after it grew by more than 450 residents every year from 2012 to 2016, for example. That was no boom, but it was steady growth.
By 2017, growth slowed to 196 people a year, less than half of the numbers typical in most years since Ike.
Growth slowed to a near stop between 2017 and 2018, when Galveston gained only 23 people, according to the bureau.
Everybody invested in Galveston’s future should be concerned about the trickle of new residents and asking about what’s behind it.
There are many places to look for those answers, but we suggest the first place should be the high and growing cost of housing on the island.
Owning a home here always has been expensive and is getting more so. More recently, the cost of renting anything decent has gotten beyond the reach of even middle-income earners.
That’s a thorny problem and not one that can be easily solved, but it’s one that should be at the top of the agenda for discussion.
• Michael A. Smith