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|Framingham: Town loses 1,312 since 2000||Sunday, October 2, 2005|
|Claudia Torrens 508-626-3976||Metrowest Daily News|
While most MetroWest communities have seen a slight increase in population
over the last four years, Framingham lost 1,312 people since 2000 and several
other towns have also become smaller.
The numbers are the 2004 population estimates of the Census Bureau and reflect a sluggish growth due to two key factors, experts say.
"A slow economic growth and the higher costs of the housing market have contributed to more people moving away," said Michael Goodman, director of Economic and Public Policy Research at the University of Massachusetts' Donahue Institute. "This is more people going away than coming in."
Marlborough, however, is the MetroWest city that has grown the fastest, with 1,444 people more in 2004 than in 2000, followed by Ashland with 854 more residents and Southborough with 768, estimates show.
Massachusetts lost nearly 4,000 people from 2003 to 2004, becoming the only state in the nation with a net loss of population. Framingham followed the state's trend, losing 386 people from 2003 to 2004 and 319 from 2002 to 2003.
College students graduating and moving to other states because they cannot find good-paying jobs could be one factor to Framingham's decline, said Kathy Bartolini, the town's Planning and Economic Development director. Retirees older than 55 years moving to Florida or Arizona because of higher costs of living could be another, she said.
However, if undocumented immigrants in Framingham took the courage to fill out census forms, the population numbers shown by the state for Framingham would be much different, she added.
"Part of the problem are the projections of undocumented aliens," said Bartolini. "If they filled out census forms, they would be counted."
State Sen. Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, said it is difficult to talk about population trends without knowing the social and economic characteristics of the people who are leaving. Age or type of household is not data included in the 2004 population estimates.
"But MetroWest has one of the highest costs of living in the country," said Spilka. "And the lack of transportation in the area could also be an influence."
The 2004 American Community Survey released in August by the Census Bureau actually shows a larger amount of homeowners in Middlesex County now than in 2000. While the owner-occupied housing units in the county in 2000 was 346,529, the number went up to 363,093 in 2004.
The number of renter-occupied housing units has decreased in Middlesex County by 25,491 over the last four years.
Like Framingham, Natick has also lost residents, going from 32,170 in 2000 to 32,113 in 2004. Wayland follows the same trend in lesser proportions: 37 fewer residents, estimates show.
The population of Norfolk and Worcester counties slightly increased, but Middlesex County has lost 768 people in the last four years.
"You can't absolutely ascertain numbers as you deal with census estimates but this seems to be a continuing trend," said Ted Welte, president of the MetroWest Chamber of Commerce. "And it can become a major concern for employers."
The majority of MetroWest towns had slight increases in population over the last four years, like Holliston with 118 more residents than in 2000 or Northborough with 307. Towns like Milford -- with 611 more residents -- have grown faster.
But why do more people seem to be moving to Marlborough?
"The city is centrally located, it has a relatively lower housing costs compared to other towns and is close to Worcester," said Goodman. The UMass Donahue Institute has a partnership with the Census Bureau and analyzes and interprets its data.
The growth of the small town of Southborough, Goodman said, could be explained by older residents selling their homes to younger families with children, which adds to population numbers.
But whatever the shifts in population are, they are not dramatic and can change considerably from year to year, said Marc Draisen, executive director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.
"What they tell us is that we have to be a bit concerned and start working on some priorities, like creating more housing," said Draisen. "We need to balance the increasing demand with enough supply."
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