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ArlingtonBusinessRegional population, job growth expected to be 'manageable'

Regional population, job growth expected to be ‘manageable’

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Northern Virginia localities should expect moderate levels of jobs growth in the coming two decades, with the metropolitan area as a whole adding perhaps 880,000 new ones by 2045.

“We are a 1-percent-a-year, on average, growing region. This is not too fast, this is not amazingly high. This is actually a very manageable pace,” said Arlington County Board member Takis Karantonis, parsing new data at the board’s March 22 meeting.

Figures come from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, which show growth in the region’s overall population to be essentially on par with job growth – the population is expected to reach a hair less than million by 2045.

During that 23-year period, employment is slated to rise 27 percent in both Arlington and Fairfax counties, with slightly lower but almost the same rates of growth in the District of Columbia (24%) and Alexandria (23%) and higher rates in the outer suburbs of Loudoun (37%) and Prince William (56%) counties.

Figures come from a consolidation of forecasts from individuals communities, and serve as “one of the prerequisites to do proper planning,” Karantonis said.

“We see how much of an effort we have to put on housing, transportation, environmental policy, etc., etc.,” he said.

In terms of household growth (which is similar to, but not completely parallel to, population growth), Arlington is expected to see an increase of 29.4 percent by 2024, according to current estimates, with Alexandria up 37 percent and Falls Church up a whopping 77 percent. Those figures seem to suggest that communities that already are somewhat urbanized, or in the case of Falls Church seemingly on the road to urbanization, will continue to see additional housing shoehorned in.

In the outer suburbs, household totals are expected to rise 31 percent in both Loudoun and Prince William counties, which still have large undeveloped tracts that may be suitable for new housing.

In Fairfax County, which serves as a buffer between urbanizing Arlington/Alexandria on one hand and more suburban/rural(ish) Loudoun and Prince William on the other, the growth rate for households is expected to be 25 percent during the period.

Staff at the Council of Governments is at work at updating projections, which soon will stretch as far into the future as 2050.

As anyone who has followed recent attempts to project future school enrollment in Northern Virginia can attest, providing projections decades into the future is a mix of science, art and alchemy, with perhaps a little voodoo thrown in. But Karantonis said he is comfortable with the numbers that COG has come up with on population and job growth.

“I have all the confidence that it is well-done,” he said. “This is not wishful thinking.”

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