Flagler County’s population will almost certainly not cross into six-figure territory when the decennial census figures are released next year, with vast implications for the county’s political representation and the federal and state dollars county officials were aiming to command as a more populous county.
Flagler County’s population, according to the Census Bureau’s just-released annual American Community Survey, was 91,622, a statistically insignificant increase of 375 people from 2008, and the first time in several decades that the county’s population hasn’t grown. Palm Coast’s population in the more accurate three-year survey from 2006 to 2008 was 69,155, less than the 74,000 figure commonly used by city officials as a standard benchmark.
The county’s housing situation is more dire. A stunning 28.2 percent of the 49,368 housing units in Flagler–most of them in Palm Coast–were vacant in 2009, up from 23.6 percent the previous year, and from 18.3 percent in 2006. The vacancy rate in Florida is 21 percent, up from 16.7 percent in 2006. It’s 12.6 percent in the nation. Flagler’s figure, among the highest in the nation, is a reflection of the oversupply of housing and the severe foreclosure crisis, which hit in this region more severely than in most.
The Census Bureau released its American Community Survey on Tuesday. It shouldn’t be confused with the decennial census, whose figures won;t be released until next year. The survey, designed to provide updated figures between the major count, is the annual estimate of key social, economic, demographic and housing characteristics for the more than 3,000 counties in the nation and all communities with populations larger than 65,000. Short of the actual census, which counts people living in the country, the annual survey is the most authoritative summary of the nation’s social and economic profile.
Some of Flagler County’s figures are more dire than others.
Not surprisingly, home owners’ mortgage burden has grown significantly over the years. Almost 41 percent of home-owners with a mortgage pay 35 percent or more of their income toward that mortgage. That’s up from 35 percent of mortgage holders in 2006. As adjustable mortgage rates continue to readjust upward, homeowners’ burdens grow. The median mortgage payment in Flagler County was $1,490, up $30 from the previous year.
Renters, too, are paying a larger share of their income to their landlord. In 2006, 39 percent of renters paid a third of their income or more in rent. In 2009, that proportion rose to almost half. The median rent in Flagler County was $1,067, a 9 percent increase over the previous year.
The county’s income profile is a mixed picture. Just half the county’s households are in the workforce. In contrast with the rest of the country, where it fell, median household income is up in Flagler County, to $50,180 (from $46,378). But poverty is up, too. Almost one in five Flagler County household (18.5 percent) has an income below $25,000. That’s up from 14.9 percent in 2006.
There are more households at the upper end of income brackets, too–14.5 percent have incomes of $100,000 or more, up from 12.6 percent, a reflecting of growing inequalities across the country, where income inequality is at its sharpest since 1967.
The income picture is bleaker when broken down into certain parts: While 11.5 percent of households in Flagler live in poverty (a steep rise from 7.6 percent four years ago), the proportion rises to 16.7 percent for households with children under 18, up from 11.2 percent four years ago–a big increase with big implications for the school district, which must cope with invisible costs associated with rising poverty, without additional dollars. The poverty rate rises to 21.2 percent in households with children under 5. And for households led by single mothers with children under 18, the poverty rate is a stunning 44.9 percent.
See all four data tables for Flagler County’s latest demographics: