The Washington State Office of Financial Management released its annual population figures Friday, and there’s one statistic that won’t surprise locals: Ridgefield was the fastest-growing city in the state.
The U.S. Census Bureau said Ridgefield’s population grew 13 percent between 2016 and 2017, the highest rate of any city in Washington. The city also claimed the fastest-growing crown from 2013 to 2014. Now, the small city’s estimated population stands at 8,895 people, having increased 15.44 percent from 2018, according to the Office of Financial Management.
Growth has caused issues around Ridgefield. In 2017, school district voters approved a bond to deal with overcrowding in the district. Ridgefield Superintendent Nathan McCann said the district has roughly 3,200 students, with an anticipated 1,760 new pupils enrolling by 2023.
Other local communities grew too. In fact, Clark County as a whole added more people than live in the entire city of Ridgefield. The county’s population as of April 1 is estimated at 488,500, an increase of 1.88 percent, or 9,000 people, over the last year.
“(Clark County) is one of the urban counties that has been growing rapidly, and it’s more of the same,” said Mike Mohrman, state demographer with the Office of Financial Management. Most of Clark County’s population growth is due to people moving here rather than natural increase (more births than deaths).
The agency said Washington’s population growth remains concentrated in the five largest metropolitan counties: Clark, King, Pierce, Snohomish and Spokane. Seattle alone added 16,900 people. And Vancouver ranked seventh in the state for numeric increase, having added 1,800 people in the last year.
Momentum is shifting to other smaller metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties, the Office of Financial Management said. The Tri-Cities area, which lies in Benton and Franklin counties, is seeing significant growth, as well as Whatcom County, home to the city of Bellingham and Western Washington University.
Mohrman said people may be leaving larger counties due to housing costs. In Clark County, for instance, the fair-market rent for a one-bedroom rental is $1,234, while in neighboring Cowlitz County, which has a smaller and less dense population, it’s $715. Last month the median sale price was $363,400 for a home in Clark County and $280,000 for a home in Cowlitz County, according to the latest Market Action Report from the Regional Multiple Listing Service.
Clark County has an estimated 188,418 housing units, having added 3,624 homes between 2018 and 2019, according to the Office of Financial Management. Cowlitz County added a few hundred housing units in that same time frame. A total of 45,300 housing units were added across the state this year, a 7 percent increase from last year, with the biggest chunk being built in King County.
Despite rising housing costs, Washington’s population grew steadily to 7,546,400. The state added 118,800 people over the last year, a 1.6 percent increase.