Village Life

New census data shows areas of growth, decline

Yellow Springs lost an additional 7.3 percent of its population in the last decade, continuing a 40-year population plummet that has left the village with 24.6 percent fewer residents than in 1970, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau figures.

In a report the bureau released last week, the population in the village was 3,487 in 2010, compared to 3,761 in 2000 and 4,624 in 1970. During this four-decade population slide the village lost two-thirds of its African-American residents and all of its Antioch College students as Antioch headed toward a temporary closure in 2008.

While the Census Bureau estimated in 2009 that population in the village may have dropped by 12.9 percent since 2000, the official counts from the decennial census, released last week, show a more optimistic figure. The bureau will release a more detailed demographic profile of the community in May.

Antioch’s impact

The village’s loss of 274 residents over the last 10 years may be entirely due to the decline in enrollment at Antioch College. The census measured 607 students on campus in 2000, according to figures that resident Sam Bachtell obtained in 2004 from the Census Bureau. This closely matches Antioch’s enrollment for the 1999-2000 school year, which was 610 students, according to Tom Brookey, Antioch’s director of finance and operations.

The village’s non-Antioch population actually climbed 333 residents, an increase of 10.6 percent, from 2000 to 2010. Comparatively, in the 1990s the village lost 230 non-Antioch residents. Due to these recent gains, the village has lost only 96 non-Antioch residents since 1970, figures show.

“It seems pretty clear that the big impact [on population] is the closing of the college,” said Village Manager Mark Cundiff, adding that housing growth has likely led to an increase in the village’s non-Antioch population. But total population decline is still troubling since it increases the tax burden for local residents, he said.

More students at the revived Antioch College would also support the Village as utility-users, renters of local housing stock and patrons and employees of village businesses, Cundiff said.

Antioch will enroll its first 25 students this fall and by the 2015–16 school year hopes to have 383 students in addition to 79 faculty and staff members, according to Communications Director Gariot Louima. If Antioch meets its enrollment goals, village population could grow by 10 percent over the next five years.

Youth remain steady

The population of children and teens in the village may be stabilizing. Of the 274 total residents lost since 2000, just five were under 18 years old. The number of residents under 18 dropped slightly to 688, from 693 in 2000. Children and teens are now a higher proportion of village residents, at 19.7 percent, up from 18.4 percent of the population in 2000. The trend is confirmed by the enrollment of in-district students at the Yellow Springs schools, which increased by seven students over the decade, to 602 in 2009, after having declined by one-third since 1975.

Superintendent Mario Basora said although the district was encouraged that the loss of school-age children had halted, he hopes to see its population grow.

“Our goal in the future is to see the percentage of young people grow tremendously and see a large group of young families come into the community,” Basora said. “It’s great for our schools and great for our community in the long run.”

While Mills Lawn is about the appropriate size for an elementary school, Basora said he hopes for 600 students at Yellow Springs High School, more than double its current size, and for McKinney Middle School to reach 100 students.

Diversity declining

But the decades-long trend of declining racial diversity in the village continues. The proportion of white residents increased to 78.1 percent of the total population, from 76.6 percent in 2000, while the percentage of African Americans in the village dropped from 15 to 12 percent. The African-American community has fallen by two-thirds since 1970, from 1,213 residents to 417 today.

African-American resident Gerry Simms points to the decline in housing affordability and jobs and lower enrollment at the college and nearby historically black universities as reasons for the continuing loss of African Americans in the village.

“To me the biggest thing is affordable housing,” said Simms, citing the previous efforts of African-American builders to provide affordable homes in the 1960s and 1970s as the reason many African Americans came to live in the village.

Yellow Springs now matches the state’s percentage of African Americans, but still has a greater percentage of African-American residents than Greene County, which is at 7.2 percent.

However, the number of Yellow Springs residents selecting two or more races (a category only available since 2000) rose from 5.7 to 7.3 percent of the total.

The percentage of Asian, Hispanic or Latino and Native American residents stayed about the same in the last 10 years. Taken together, these groups comprise about 4 percent of the village’s population.

To Village Council President Judith Hempfling, the early census results underscore the need for the Village to attract a more diverse population.

“There’s no question that communities have to become magnets for different ethnic groups because they provide opportunities for them,” she said, adding that new marketing efforts are underway to promote the village’s African-American history.

Housing growing

Over the last decade, the village added more housing units than at any time in the last 30 years. The number of housing units grew by 129 units from 1,676 in 2000 to 1,805 in 2010, an increase of 7.7 percent. By comparison, only 72 housing units were added in the 1980s and 1990s combined.

New housing was added in the larger developments of Glenside, Thistle Creek, Stancliff and Birch III, and independent housing units were built at Friends Care. But much housing growth was infill development and the addition of units to existing properties, according to Village Assistant Planner Ed Amrhein. The Village has zoning permits for 96 of the 129 new units, most of which are single-family homes scattered throughout the village. This includes houses built by Home, Inc. and Starfish over the decade. The remaining housing units were likely added to existing houses or accessory structures, such as garages, and completed without a permit, Amrhein reported.

However, the housing vacancy rate rose to a 40-year high of 7.4 percent of all units, from 5.3 percent. A rise in the number of vacant houses may mean that houses are staying on the market for longer periods of time, or that rental units are sitting empty. Amrhein thinks the reported vacancy rate may be inaccurate. Local realtor Rick Kristensen also questioned the number of rental and owner vacancies.

“I’m surprised that vacancies would’ve gone up,” Kristensen said, since vacant housing is often indicative of a distressed market. “My gut feeling is it’s not distressed in Yellow Springs,” he added, though due to the recession and challenged Dayton housing market, last year only 24 homes were sold in Yellow Springs, down from about 50 per year in the preceding five years.

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