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City sees climb in rental properties, minority numbers

New census data shows a nearly 50 percent jump in Woodbury's renter-occupied housing units since the 2000 census, an increase in the minority population and a slight increase in unmarried partners living together.

Part of that increase is attributed to the growing housing market in the city with a number of new apartments built in the last decade, Housing Specialist Karl Batalden said.

But another factor is the sour economy that led a number of people to double up, rent part of their homes to help with mortgage costs or leave their homes to escape hefty monthly payments, said Washington County Housing and Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Barbara Dacy.

"During the last four or five years, as a result of the foreclosure, there may be people that have bought foreclosed homes and have rehabbed them and rented them out," she added.

The corresponding 33 percent population growth in Woodbury, however, shows the city's geographic location continues to be a draw for many renters, homeowners as well as developers, Batalden said.

The CityWalk and Classic at the Preserve developments combined to make for 800 units alone and both were not yet built in 2000, he added.

"That would be the largest rental offer in the city," Batalden said.

Additionally, some investors who have bought various townhome developments in town are also renting them out.

"When you look at our strategic location in the metro, it makes sense that the rental developers want to be building here," Batalden said.

Owner-occupied housing units also grew from a little over 14,000 to 18,000, -- a 29 percent increase that also corresponds with the city's overall growth percentage.

"Social change happens," said state demographer Tom Gillaspy.

Just the addition of the category "unmarried partners" in 2000 shows how much society has changed in the last two decades, he added.

In Woodbury, unmarried partners living together is not a huge number -- it's about 2.1 percent of the population compared to 2.7 percent statewide, Gillaspy said.

"That was unusual when I was in school, but not unusual now," said Gillaspy, who's been a state demographer for more than 30 years.

Woodbury tends to be more of a family-oriented place, he added, which is why households consisting of families related by marriage, birth or adoption increased from 12,665 in 2000 to 16,688 in 2010.

Non-family households in Woodbury comprise 5,906 of the total population, or about 1,900 more than what the 2000 census reported.

"It's a nice place for families with children," Gillaspy said. "Now what's going to happen as Woodbury gets filled up, as the amount of developed space begins to be more scarce? There just simply won't be all that much construction after a while and those families will begin to age."

He predicts that as children in the community grow up and move away from the city, households of more than four people will suddenly become households of two or even one.

"Eventually Woodbury would see its population capped off and begin to decline," he said.

Suburbs like Columbia Heights, Brooklyn Center, Roseville and North St. Paul are now experiencing population declines after rapid growth in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, he said.

"Woodbury went through a rapid expansion period in the 1990s," Gillaspy said, adding, "Part of that was related to the completion of the beltway."

So it'll be a while longer before Woodbury's population, which is generally similar in education and income levels, begins to decline and become more diverse, he said.

The city will continue to experience some "growing pains" in the next few decades, he added.

Since 2000, census numbers show a significant jump in black residents living in Woodbury, as well as Asian Indians and Hispanics.

But Gillaspy said Woodbury is still not as ethnically diverse as other parts of the state and the country.

"And that's where the biggest growth is," he added, referring to population growth nationwide.

In Woodbury alone, the Asian Indian population grew from 438 in 2000 to 1,557 in 2010, according to the census results. Black residents numbered 1,168 in 2000 and grew to 3,487. Over the last decade, the Hispanic population grew from 996 to 2,329.

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.