The incredible shrinking city

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2602_3608397.tAs much as is possible, we try to keep things upbeat and positive here on Warren Expressed, but there is one overriding fact that has to be kept front and center as we think about the future: Every day, Warren grows smaller, older and poorer.

We have said this often, siting historical data from the past 40 years as our evidence. Now, however, the Urban Institute and the New York Times, give us an online tool to make projections into the near future. The tool has limitations; e.g., not all cities are in the database. Warren is only available as a component of Youngstown’s data, which covers a large part of Northeastern Ohio. You can play with the model by clicking here, where you can change specific assumptions. But by using the “average” assumptions for growth, birthrate, etc., we can see that Warren is likely to shrink by another 10% in population by the year 2030.

A drop of that magnitude means another 1000+ vacant houses — vacant because there is no one to live in them. An enormous amount of hard work and luck has been required to find the funds to tear down fewer than 500 house these past few years. It is hard to imagine where the funds for another 1000 demolitions will be found. And vacant homes are just one of the many problems created with a population drop of that magnitude.

The model, unfortunately, probably understates the seriousness of the problem in the cities of Warren and Youngstown since the area classified as “Youngstown” includes nearly 800,000 people today, and therefore includes more stable communities like Boardman, Canfield, Cortland and others less likely to suffer decline and more likely to hold onto younger and more affluent people. In 2030 the whole area is projected to have more children and elderly people than people of working age. So, our median income will fall and our median age will rise.

The only way to create a brighter future for Warren is to create growth. More people and more jobs are needed. Unfortunately, the Warren City government has no economic development plan, and no person devoted to this critical task. A senior manager in Warren city government once told us that “planning is pointless because the situation changes so rapidly.” If only that were true. The situation is actually very stable. It has been falling on a straight line for decades.

Posted Monday, January 26th, 2015 under Blight, Vacant homes, Warren strategic plan.

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