The Columbian recently had an article outlining the recent growth projections and cited a number of sources including Washington State Department of Finance. Our county is expected to reach a population of around 640,000 by 2040. That may seem far off but its only 22 years away! 640,000 may not seem like a huge number but Clark County is a very small county in terms of physical area. With just 628 square miles of land within our boundaries we are the smallest in size other than the tiny island counties in the Puget Sound and Wahkiakum county near the mouth of the Columbia River.
Comparatively Clark County has a high population density with 750 persons per square mile. Only King County has a higher density although Kitsap is very close. That means Clark County is an urban county. Yes we can still drive out into the countryside and see horses, cattle, orchards, and vineyards. But we are still packing them in tight, particularly along the Columbia River. Our 471,000 residents rank us at 5th by population among Washington's 39 counties and we are the fifth smallest by area.
Measured against our Portland Metro neighbors we are slightly less dense than Washington County which has a density of 808 per square mile and well behind Multnomah and her 1839 per square mile. Multnomah County is nearly fully built out, so it has little room to grow. Washington County is trending at 17% per decade on pace with us.
Growth tends to act as a regulator in real estate. Strong population growth is fueled by both an attraction as a place to live and a community willing to provide the space. Clark County has both. The willingness to provide the space keeps real estate prices manageable. Once an area loses the ability or desire to provide space in the form of development, real estate prices can skyrocket until the demand or desirability wanes. Skyrocketing prices are not nearly as good economically as modestly increasing values. Like the fable of the Tortoise and the Hare, skyrocketing pricing leads to strong corrections. The hare rockets ahead only to be "distracted" by downturns as the tortoise passes by.
Many areas in California have had harsh boom-bust cycles. Clark County is poised to enjoy a strong balanced real estate profile over the next several decades. Sure there will be some market adjustments along the way, but this area continues to attract residents and local governments continue to provide development opportunities.
Real estate in Clark County is a strong bet for the future.
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