Yesterday came the news that, well, we’re rich. According to a letter from D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi, the D.C. government is now anticipating $600 million more in revenue in the next five years than previously forecast. That means a big surplus for years to come.
But buried in the appendix to the letter is a more ominous prediction. The rapid population growth that has fueled D.C.’s post-recession economic boom, Gandhi forecasts, is coming to an end. Here are the actual and projected changes in population by year:
2012: 2.2% (+13,400)
2013: 1.8% (+11,200)
2014: 1.3% (+8,600)
2015: 1.1% (+6,900)
2016: 0.9% (+5,800)
2017: 0.8% (+5,400)
How did Gandhi arrive at this conclusion? According to spokesman David Umansky, “the declining rate of growth is related both to some market indicators and to uncertainty.” Construction of housing units is expected to slow down, Umansky says, and “with job growth already showing signs of slowing and the impact of sequester on the city’s economy still to be determined, the degree of uncertainty suggests caution in forecasting population growth several years out.”
Caution, of course, doesn’t mean an actual slowdown. The city has consistently underestimated its budget surpluses; it may be hedging here on population growth as well. We’ve already seen hysteria on the city’s growth numbers when they’re in fact still quite good by national standards. But if the declining growth does come to pass, it could spell trouble for D.C.’s growth-fueled economic boom.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery