May 12, 2016

Two years ago, when MORPC launched insight2050 to examine the effects of population growth and changing development in the coming 35 years, we soon found that Central Ohio would add 500,000 people by 2050. The question was, “Could it be even more?” And the answer turns out to be “yes.” 

Since 2010, our region has added 115,000 people – more than predicted. There are many variables to consider, but if this remarkable growth continues, it’s possible we reach the 500,000 mark 20 years early and be on pace to add upwards of a million people by 2050. 

“Faster growth and the new opportunities it brings are exciting,” MORPC Executive Director William Murdock said. “But faster growth makes it more urgent to plan ahead and not be afraid to tackle its challenges on transportation, workforce, and housing.” 

Growth affects land development. The region is still developing farmland and green space.  In just the past five years, we have developed about 25 square miles. It sounds like a lot, but it’s not as much as expected. 

A nearly equal amount of this land was developed in rural areas as was developed inside areas already served by infrastructure, especially with infill and redevelopment. At this pace, by 2050 we’ll have developed about 112 additional square miles of land, well below the 270 square miles originally expected. 

“Even as we grow faster, communities and the market are already responding with more focused growth.  We are losing less farmland, and more development is happening in places where development already exists,” said Jennifer Noll, MORPC associate planner for insight2050. “This creates significant benefits by using fewer government resources, reducing congestion, and using infrastructure more efficiently.”    

We’re on target to build at least 300,000 new housing units by 2050. What is particularly interesting is that between 2010 and 2015, we saw significant growth in multi-family housing – nearly two-thirds of new housing units. This is consistent with the household characteristics considered in insight2050 and is an example of how communities are responding to market preferences. Residents are seeking more housing options, including smaller attached homes. 

Another bright spot of the findings is that there has been significant job growth. Central Ohio’s economic development and planning professionals are hard at work, and we have added 122,000 new jobs since 2010. 

Change and growth aren’t off in the distance, they’re here today.  Communities are responding to changing demographics and market demands, but more work needs to be done. 

MORPC continues to stay engaged and ready to help on a number of issues, including investment in smart tools and infrastructure so that we can get ahead of the growth. Be sure to check out insight2050 and stay on top of the change happening in Central Ohio.