July 10, 2008

Population Drops in 26 of 31 Broward Municipalities

By Robin Benedick, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Jul. 9--Broward's at a loss.

Twenty-six of the county's 31 municipalities lost population and three of them -- Hollywood, Coral Springs and Pembroke Pines -- made the Top 10 list of fastest-shrinking large cities from 2006 to 2007, according to U.S. census estimates released today.

The percentage losses -- the worst of any Florida county -- are an amazing turnaround from the 1990s, when Coral Springs and Pembroke Pines regularly ranked near the top of the country's fastest-growing hot spots.

If the departures continue over the next few years, as demographers predict, they could affect city budgets and eventually reduce the state and federal dollars that cities get based on population.

"It's a domino effect," said Margie Power, a Coral Springs activist. "We lose the people who live here, we lose the taxes, we lose the money for schools and parks. ... That worries me a lot. It's going to wind up, for the people who stay, very, very costly to live here."

Demographers say the exodus is a combination of immigrants who use South Florida as a way station before relocating; Baby Boomers who are retiring to cheaper places in Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia; struggling seniors who move in with relatives up north; and young people who can't afford to buy homes here.

"We're seeing a lot of places in Florida that are going down as a result of the bursting of the housing bubble and the substantial slowdown in the economy and job creation," said Stan Smith, director of the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Florida.

It's the second year in a row of declines in Broward, although lasttime only 16cities recorded a drop and the numbers were not as big.

"I am not the slightest bit alarmed by this, and I think it's basically a good thing," said Angelo Castillo, a Pembroke Pines city commissioner. "If, in fact, we have less water usage and less congestion on the roads, it's not a concern."

The only cities to gain residents were Miramar (880), Parkland (774), Coconut Creek (201) and Lighthouse Point (8). Lazy Lake Village held at 38 residents.

"I think the perception is out there that it's too expensive to live here now," said Bill Leonard, Broward's senior planner. He questioned the accuracy of the estimates, which rely on building permit data.

"We know the building activity is down, but it's not like we had large numbers of units disappear from last year," Leonard said.

The census figures show Hollywood was the county's biggest loser, dropping 2,068 of its nearly 142,500 residents, a 1.4 percent decline, and ranking third nationwide.

Jaime Shulman, owner of Hollywood-based 1st American Movers, said he's busy moving Hollywood residents who lost their homes to foreclosure.

"It's very simple," he said. "People can't afford living here. Everything is expensive and Hollywood has a lot people who are not wealthy."

Dr. Barry Kay, president of the local Chamber of Commerce, agreed. "It's a built-out, old community, and a lot of people are retiring and moving up north. Their money goes a lot further up there."

Coral Springs lost 1,762 of its nearly 127,000 residents (1.4 percent) and ranked fifth nationally. Pembroke Pines dropped 1,948 of its nearly 147,000 residents (1.3 percent) and ranked sixth. Pompano Beach claimed the 21st spot nationally, losing 777 of its nearly 103,000 residents, or 0.8 percent.

In total, Broward cities lost about 15,000 people, slightly more than the population of West Park in south Broward. Twenty-two other cities saw declines ranging from a dozen people in Sea Ranch Lakes to 992 in Deerfield Beach.

The losses amplify a census report in March that Broward lost population for perhaps the first time; 13,154 more people left than arrived in 2006. Still, despite the decline, Broward has grown about 10 percent since 2000.

"You need to keep this in perspective because even the [cities] that are declining now have grown substantially since 2000," said Richard Ogburn of the South Florida Regional Planning Council.

To view the census data, go to www.census.gov/popest/estimates.php.

Staff Writers Lisa J. Huriash and Ihosvani Rodriguez contributed to this report.

Robin Benedick can be reached at or 954-385-7914.


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