TRUMBULL COUNTY Population declines, but dwellings go through the roof

Family size is shrinking, according to U.S. Census data.
WARREN -- Fewer people live in Trumbull County now than anytime in the last 30 years.
But housing them takes more homes, apartments and condominiums than ever, according to the Trumbull County Planning Commission's breakdown of data from the 2000 U.S. Census.
The county had a net gain of 4,584 homes from1990 to 2000, while the number of people living in them dropped from 227,813 to 225,116 over the same period.
Reason: A small number of housing units, perhaps 1 percent, may be empty, said Alan Knapp, assistant director of the planning commission, but the numbers primarily show that people are just spreading themselves out more thinly.
"The basic reason for this is that family size has been dropping," Knapp said. "It's a national trend."
Between 1980 and 1990, average family size dropped from 3 to 2.6, Knapp said. Although the planning commission does not have an exact number for 2000 yet, Knapp said he expects it to be about 2.4. That means that families, on average, are 20 percent smaller than they were 20 years ago.
"Back in the 1970s they had families of four or five kids," said Gary Newbrough, director of the planning commission. "Those big families aren't around anymore."
Divorce also contributes to smaller family size, planners say. Another major factor, in this area especially, is that the average age of the population is creeping upward and people are living longer.
Housing developments for older people, who tend to live alone or with a spouse, make an impact on these numbers.
For example, the 489 dwellings built in Howland Township over the past 10 years include independent living condominiums at Shepherd of the Valley, where no more than one or two people live in each.
Shrinking cities: Growth has followed a familiar pattern over the past 10 years. Most new housing construction was in the suburbs, while the city of Warren lost older, dilapidated housing to bulldozers and wrecking crews, Knapp said.
The pattern concerns planners, who see additional expenses if the population moves too far from urban centers.
"Buses have to go farther, firetrucks have to go farther, police have to provide more services, streets need maintenance," Newbrough said.
On top of that, laying water and sewer lines to remote areas is an expensive proposition, he said.
"We want people back in the cities," he said.

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