Coastal counties gained the most new rural housing between 2000 and 2008. But for the real growth in the housing stock outside the cities, look to the exurbs.
The number of houses in rural America increased between 2000 and 2008, but at slower rates than in either urban or exurban communities.
In 2000, 19.2% of the nation’s dwellings were located in rural counties. That number dropped by 2008 to 18.6% of America’s 129 million homes and apartments, according to data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The number of dwellings in rural areas increased during this period, from 22.3 million to 24 million, a 7.8% increase. But the rate of housing growth increased more in urban counties and most in exurban counties.
The number of urban dwellings increased from 83.4 million in 2000 to 93.3 million between 2000 and 2008, a 12% increase.
Exurban counties had a 15% increase in housing units, from 10.2 million to over 11.7 million. In 2000, 8.8% of the nation’s housing units were in exurban counties. By 2008, these counties had 9.1% of all housing.
The map above shows the change in housing units in rural and exurban counties. (To download a spreadsheet showing the changes in housing units between 2000 and 2008 for all U.S. counties, click here.) The darkest green counties had the largest increase in dwellings. (Click here or on the map to see a larger version.)
The counties in dark red had decreases in the number of houses. (See below for a caveat on Montana.) Urban counties are shown in white.
Rural coastal counties showed the largest increase in the number of new housing units. Baldwin County, Alabama, had the largest increase in dwellings among rural counties, with a jump of 29,500 units in eight years. Baldwin was followed by Flagler County, Florida (24,500); Sussex County, Delaware, (23,500) and Beaufort County, South Carolina (22,853).
The fifty rural counties that had the largest increase in the number of housing units are listed in this chart:[img:ruralhousinggain.jpg]
The Census report for Montana housing is most certainly misleading. Contrary to what the map shows, Montana did not suffer a wholesale loss of housing. The map above correctly reports the official Census findings. But there is a flaw in the Bureau’s methods when it comes to that state.
The Census bureau relies on a number of components to track the number of housing units, including building permits. Many Montana counties, however, do not require building permits, and so the Census misses much of the state’s new construction. (For a full explanation, see this article.)
Many Montana cities do require permits and they are counted by the Census. Rural counties, however, do not generally require building permits, so their housing is undercounted.
We included the Census data in the map, but we excluded Montana counties from the list of 50 counties with the largest declines in housing.
Two Appalachian counties — Gallia County, Ohio, and Mercer County, West Virginia — lost the most dwellings among rural counties. The 50 rural counties that lost the most housing units are listed in the chart below:[img:ruralhousingloss.jpg]
Exurban counties were more volatile. Counties on the edge of fast-growing cities or in popular retirement areas reported stunning increases in the number of housing units. Pinal County, near Phoenix, added more than 64,000 dwellings. Coastal Brunswick County, North Carolina, has added nearly 25,000 units in eight years; and Deschutes County, Oregon — where Bend beckons squadrons of California retirees — has increased its housing stock by more than 23,000 units.
Hancock County, Mississippi, lost the most housing units, 2,063,during those eight years. Hancock and its county seat, Bay St. Louis, were ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.
The 50 exurban counties with the largest increase in housing units are listed here:[img:exurbanhousing.jpg]