25 February 2010

Transitional Apartments Offer Help to Homeless Veterans

Fort Worth Business Press

The finishing touches are all in place at Liberty House: the walls are painted, the carpet is in, the beds are turned down and the staff is ready to welcome home the first residents in a new transitional housing program for homeless veterans in Tarrant County.

Liberty House, a partnership between Mental Health Mental Retardation of Tarrant County (MHMRTC) and the United States Veterans Administration (VA), could begin accepting residents by March 1, once final approval is received from the government.

Located at 1501 E. El Paso St. adjacent to MHMRTC on the city’s near east side, Liberty House is part of Mayor Mike Moncrief’s 10-year plan to end homelessness in Fort Worth. The program also is an answer to a crucial need for residential, substance abuse and family supportive services for homeless vets in the community, according to Nikki Hatley, executive director of MHMR Visions. Founded in 2001, Visions is the charitable arm of MHMRTC and helps mobilize local resources and volunteers to bridge the gap in services the agency provides.

“There are almost 16,000 homeless veterans in Texas,” Hatley said, “and 920 of them are here in Tarrant County.”

The Department of Veterans Affairs provides funding for only 233 beds statewide. Liberty House will provide 30 beds for vets, who will stay about six months on average, but can stay up to a maximum of two years, Hatley said.

The need for more transitional housing for homeless vets is sobering, said John Goodrich, senior vice president of Worthington National Bank in Fort Worth. Goodrich is a veteran and a member of the advisory board for Liberty House.

According to the National Survey of Homeless Assistance Providers and Clients, 23 percent of all homeless people in America are veterans, and 89 percent of those were honorably discharged.

“They served their time and now they’re homeless,” Goodrich said. “The idea of Liberty House is to get them to reconnect back to the community and their families.”

Liberty House Transitional Housing Program differs slightly from MHMRTC’s other adult residential treatment programs, which include the 50-bed Pine Street rehabilitation facility and the 12-bed Billy Gregory Detoxification unit. There also is the Directions Home case management program provided by the city of Fort Worth and the veterans’ transitional housing program at the nonprofit Presbyterian Night Shelter, located next door to Liberty House.

The focus of the new program will be on addiction and sobriety, said Deirdre Browne, Liberty House program manager. Liberty House will give homeless veterans with chemical dependency, as well post traumatic stress disorder and other combat-related diagnoses, full access to all programs at MHMRTC. The program, expected to serve about 55-75 men and women each year, will offer vets supportive services leading them to recovery, residential stability, independence, employment and reintegration into the community.

“We’d like to provide more enriched services for the people who are here than the VA can provide,” Hatley said. “Our emphasis will be on getting them clean and sober and then helping them find a job and permanent housing. We’ll help give them opportunities to go to college and provide them other resources that will help them return to the community.”

Construction on the two-story, 7,500-square-foot veterans’ facility of Fort Worth apartments began in August 2009 after MHMRTC’s Addiction Services Division received a capital grant award from the VA totaling $600,000. The local agency was the only MHMR organization in Texas to receive the grant last year, Hatley said. Addiction Services matched the VA grant with an additional $300,000 to cover bricks and mortar construction costs that renovated and expanded an existing building into the transitional housing center.

The Architects Barnes/Associates Inc. of Fort Worth was the project architect. General contractor was Fort Worth-based RJM Contractors Inc.

Clients will live in a dormitory style atmosphere, two people to a room. Amenities include a kitchenette, a larger kitchen and dining room currently shared with clients of Presbyterian Night Shelter, a laundry room, separate showers for men and women and a courtyard. VA offices will be located upstairs.

Future plans call for a library and a computer room to facilitate employment preparation, a workout room and a clothes pantry stocked with donated business attire for the veterans’ job interviews.

“This will give opportunities for volunteers to come in and help the veterans develop resumes, coach for job interviews, teach them how to dress for interviews and help them with up-to-date computer skills,” Hatley said.

Because the VA capital grant did not provide for furnishings, Visions launched a fund-raising effort to furnish the interior spaces and make necessary renovations. All the bedrooms are complete, with several rooms sponsored by local businesses and individuals. Sofas, chairs, tables, a big screen TV and a piano have been donated. A quilting group from Richland Hills Church of Christ donated 30 handmade quilts for the beds. Lending some added decoration and a touch of home will be Fort Worth artist Nancy Lamb, who will paint panels of veterans through the ages. The paintings will be available for sponsorships, Hatley said.

Hatley estimates about $31,000 is needed to finish the kitchen renovation and purchase new appliances and utensils. The Fort Worth Airpower Foundation recently presented Liberty House with a check for $15,000 toward the kitchen makeover.

A grand opening and flag-raising ceremony is planned for Liberty House in late March, when the first homeless veterans are expected to have filled the housing unit. The Veterans Administration will determine the eligibility of individuals who apply for residency.

“These are the vets who are chronically homeless. When they come off the streets they need the time to adjust and become sober. They need to lose the bad habits they picked up on the streets,” Browne said. “Our goal is to create supportive good habits that will help them be successful.”

24 February 2010

Dallas-Forth Worth Home Prices up by 3 Percent

The Dallas News

Dallas-area home prices moved solidly higher in the latest measure of the country's housing market.

Dallas' December home prices increased by 3 percent from a year earlier in the monthly Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller Home Price Index.

It was the second month in a row that area home prices rose on an annual basis. Prices were up 1.4 percent in November's Case-Shiller Dallas report – the first such gain in more than two years.

Overall prices fell by 3.1 percent in the 20 cities Case-Shiller tracks, indicating that much of the rest of the country still faces home market challenges.

"As measured by prices, the housing market is definitely in better shape than it was this time last year, as the pace of deterioration has stabilized for now," S&P's David Blitzer said in the report. "However, the rate of improvement seen during the summer of 2009 has not been sustained."

More than a dozen of the major U.S. housing markets had a year over year decline in home prices at the end of 2009, Case-Shiller found.

The biggest price drops were in Las Vegas, -20.6 percent, and Tampa, -11 percent.

San Francisco had the largest annual price gain in December – 4.8 percent – followed by Dallas and San Diego's 2.7 percent increase.

Case-Shiller tracks the prices of typical single-family homes located in each metropolitan area. The index does not include condominiums and townhouses. It only covers preowned properties – no new construction.

The Case-Shiller researchers compare sales of specific properties over time.

Dallas apartments and home prices are still about 6 percent below their peak in mid 2007, according to Case-Shiller's numbers.

Local real estate statistics show that median home sales prices in North Texas were unchanged in all of 2009 from 2008 levels, according to the North Texas Real Estate Information System.

Median prices fell by 3 percent in 2008 based on prices of homes sold by Realtors through the multiple listing service.

23 February 2010

Texas State Moves Forward with $50M Student Housing Project

Austin Business Journal

The Texas State University System Regents moved ahead with planning a 612-bed, $50 million student housing project late last week.

The group approved adding the project to the San Marcos campus' capital improvement program with an expected ground breaking date this fall. Regents will vote on design plans during its May meeting. If the project moves ahead as planned, it would open sometime in 2013.

The "North Campus Housing" project would total about 189,450 square feet on the corner of Comanche Street and Sessom Drive.

Other projects approved during the meetings Feb 18-19 include: Academic Services Building North ($985,000), Department of Housing and Residential Life Office Building ($15.8 million), Mitte Clean Room renovation ($1.1 million), Lampasas Hall renovation ($1.7 million), Multipurpose Educational Facility site and infrastructure improvements project ($2.2 million) and a rescue house and climbing tower for the Advance Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training program ($950,000).

The San Marcos location of the eight-campus school system currently has about $633 million worth of Texas apartments construction slated to take place in the coming years. The school added 2,500 students last semester and now enrolls about 30,800. The university system was founded in 1911.

22 February 2010

3-Alarm Fire Destroys North Texas Apartments

KENS San Antonio

IRVING -- Investigators are working to find the cause of a fire that destroyed multiple units at an apartment complex located in the 3800 block of North O'Connor Road in Irving.

The fire, which destroyed the Irving apartments, began around 4 a.m. and continued to burn until firefighters were able to get the fire under control at about 6:50 a.m. At least 15 apartments were damaged in the fire.

The battle to extinguish the fire began with a rough start when firefighters discovered the complex's water source had little to no pressure. While residents were evacuated, firefighters dragged hoses across the street to find a source of water to battle the blaze.

Several residents also said their smoke alarms never went off. One resident, who said he has lived at the complex for over 10 years, claimed there have been at least three fires since he has lived there.

There were no reports of injuries.

15 February 2010

Committee Holds off Deals for Apartments

Seguin Gazette Enterprise

SEGUIN — The city’s abatement committee, in its monthly meeting Thursday, took no action on a request for the city to consider granting property tax abatements for builders of multiple-family housing developments.

The possibility of granting abatements for apartment complexes was brought to the committee by Jim Price of American Realty Associates who said he had been working with Ron Inscore, developer of the Ranch at State Highway 123, a 180-unit complex scheduled to begin construction in April.

“We all recognize that Seguin needs good multiple-family housing,” Price said, reminding the group of the need for such housing after Caterpillar and its suppliers go into production. He said industrial development and housing development are linked.

Price said new residents who start out living in apartments in Seguin eventually will become homeowners in Seguin and those who work here but live in New Braunfels apartments probably will become homeowners there.

Providing committee members with a photo of San Antonio apartments built by Inscore in San Antonio and additional data about the local complex, Price said the Ranch at State Highway 123 will cost an estimated $12.8 million. This includes almost $1.5 million to buy the land and $10.2 million for construction. During construction, an estimated average of 100 workers will be at the site earning some $16,000 per day.

Price said the opening of the Ranch at State Highway 123 would produce only five new jobs with an annual payroll estimated at $118,000. However, the developer will pay fees totaling more than $313,500 to the city of Seguin, and the city’s annual taxes on the complex, based on the current rate, will amount to more than $59,000.

The committee also was given a chart comparing rental rates for the Ranch at State Highway 123 with the rates at existing apartment complexes in Seguin. Of the 180 units to be built, 124 are one-bedroom units renting for $593 to $888 monthly, 48 are two-bedroom units renting at $998 monthly and eight are three-bedroom units renting at $1,186 monthly.

“We have several other proposals,” City Manager Doug Faseler said, pointing to sites on a PowerPoint map where other apartment complexes are in various stages of pre-construction development. “As you can see, we’re getting a lot of interest in multiple-family housing.”

Terry Trevino, executive director of the Seguin Economic Development Corp., showed the committee a chart listing cities that city staff had contacted about offering tax abatements for multiple-family housing and San Antonio apartments. The cities included New Braunfels, San Marcos, Schertz, Kyle, Buda, Converse, Hutto and Fort Worth. None of the cities offer such abatements except for low-income housing or projects in reinvestment zones.

“We fully understand the need for housing in the community,” Trevino said. However, “I cannot favorably recommend an amendment to our guidelines.”

County Judge Mike Wiggins asked about the legality of granting abatements for apartment complexes.

City Attorney Andy Quittner said the complex would have to be located in a reinvestment zone, and Trevino said the Ranch at State Highway 123 is not in a reinvestment zone.

When Chairman Mark Herbold called for a motion on the issue, Wiggins suggested the committee take no action. “There’s clearly a number of questions that need to be answered,” Wiggins said, adding that taking no action might be preferable to voting to deny the request. “It doesn’t slam the door nor does it open the door.”

After hearing no objections to Wiggins’ recommendation, Herbold said: “The consensus of the board is to take no action.”

The committee also voted to recommend approval of abatements for two businesses locating in the downtown historic district.

Advanced Home Health at 200 S. Austin St. claimed improvements totaling $126,575 and, based on the current tax rate, will receive an abatement amounting to $582 per year for five years for a total of $2,910.

The Ticket at 204 S. Austin documented improvements totaling $46,339 and will receive an abatement amounting to $213 per year for a five-year total of $1,065.

Having been recommended for approval by the Main Street Advisory Board and the Abatement Committee, the tax abatements for Advanced Home Health and The Ticket will be submitted to the City Council for final approval.

10 February 2010

Lochwood Residents Fear Return of Portable Elementary Classrooms

The Dallas News

The Lochwood neighborhood east of White Rock Lake is rallying to oppose possible DISD recommendations to alleviate crowding at Highland Meadows Elementary by moving students to M.T. Reilly Elementary. The fear is that the shift will return portables to the playground at Reilly, which is in the heart of Lochwood.

Neighborhood plea: Scott Robson, president of the Dixon Branch [Lochwood] Homeowners Association, sent an e-mail alert to residents, saying: "While we know that a solution needs to be found to the overcrowding at Highland Meadows Elementary, we would like to ask for neighborhood support in opposing any solution that would place portables at Martha Turner Reilly Elementary. ... Portable classrooms are unsightly, can invite crime, create havens for troublemakers, and adversely affect property values."

DISD options: Highland Meadows opened in 2004 and has a capacity of 766 students. It was built without utilities for portable classrooms. A board briefing report listed these options, which are on the agenda for discussion at Thursday's Dallas school board briefing at 11:30 a.m.:

• Move 48 PK-4 students from the small neighborhood south of the Highland Meadows campus to Reilly. This would not bring Highland Meadows below 100 percent capacity, however.

• Move 133 PK-4 students from Dallas apartments west of Jupiter and south of McCree to Reilly. This would relieve Highland Meadows but push Reilly to about 113 percent utilization.

• Eliminate the three prekindergarten classes (66 students) at Highland Meadows.

• Deny 15 students of employees and 20 hardship transfers permission to return for 2010-11. Review other transfers.

History: Reilly Elementary was dedicated in 1956. The school can take 589 students and is at 89 percent capacity. "It was not too many years since we had over 30 portable buildings at Reilly, and we do not want to repeat this situation," Robson said.

08 February 2010

Texas City was Right to Help Evictees Move

Galveston County Daily News

When officials in Texas City took action against The Oaks Apartments, 8601 Emmett F. Lowry Expressway, they made sure the residents didn’t end up on the streets.

The city finally cut the water off to the complex. When the action was taken, the complex’s owners owed more than $60,000. They also faced complaints about code violations.

The city helped 62 residents move. City officials gave plenty of warning that the action was coming and worked with Catholic Charities and other apartment owners to find new homes for those displaced. Catholic Charities covered the security deposits at the new apartments.

The city and its partners should get credit for helping some regular people out of a bad situation in Galveston apartments.

03 February 2010

Texas Real Estate Sees Modest Improvement

My San Antonio

Forget Texas' “bigger is better” mantra. In a tough economy, even modest increases in the real estate market are cause for celebration, according to a new Texas home sales report.

The statewide median home price increased 2.4 percent between the fourth quarter of 2008 and the fourth quarter of 2009, reaching $143,400.

The Texas Quarterly Housing Report from the Texas Association of Realtors also said the number of Texas apartments and homes for sale dropped, with the months of inventory falling statewide from 6.6 months to 6.5 months — considered the benchmark for a market balanced between buyers and sellers.

“The state was more or less flat, which was good. By and large the state of Texas did very well,” said James Gaines, research economist with the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University. “Even when we were down, we were down much less than the rest of the country.”

In San Antonio, the median home price was $147,600 at the end of the year, down 1 percent.

Houston's median price was flat at $152,100; Dallas home prices were essentially unchanged at $155,400; Fort Worth prices dropped 3 percent to a median price of $113,300; and Austin's prices dropped 1 percent, to $185,600.

But sales volume increased 16 percent statewide, with more than 53,000 home sales in the last three months of the year.

There's no way to know for sure, but the federal tax credit for first-time home buyers likely spurred more sales, Gaines said.

The credit, available to those who haven't owned a home in the last three years, essentially gave home buyers $8,000 from the government.

“We don't have any way to really count it,” Gaines said. “My belief is that on the aggregate level it might have made a difference of as much as 10 percent. Most of those sales happened in October or November.”

The tax credit was an offer that was supposed to expire at the end of November 2009. But Congress extended it through June of this year and expanded it to include more people, which could help boost home sales in the first half of 2010.

The report uses data on single-family home sales from 47 multiple listing services in cities throughout Texas.

02 February 2010

Denton Developers Want Input on Fry

Denton Record-Chronicle

A public meeting Wednesday could help shape the proposed redevelopment of Denton’s once-vibrant Fry Street area.

The company behind a proposal to build student housing on a mostly vacant block bordering the University of North Texas is inviting residents to offer their views on the area’s fate. The meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall.

 “We have ideas on what we want to see,” said Josh Vasbinder, a vice president with The Dinerstein Companies, a Houston apartments, real estate and development firm. “But I want to make sure our ideas align with what the community wants to see long-term for that property.”

Company officials plan to mostly listen during Wednesday’s meeting, Vasbinder said. They’re planning a second gathering, tentatively set for Feb. 17 at City Hall, to present revised plans incorporating feedback they receive, he said.

Company officials are already talking with community leaders to gather their views on the project, said Patrice Lyke, who leads the Denton Neighborhood Alliance, a consortium of local neighborhood groups. By contrast, the developer behind Fry Street Village — the doomed development planned for the same block in 2006 — didn’t reach out to neighborhoods until its plans were set in stone, she said.

“Time will tell, but this early willingness to listen to the neighborhoods is a really good sign,” said Lyke, who also serves on the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission.

The Dinerstein Cos. and Dallas-based Winkelmann & Associates Inc. filed a pre-application with Denton city officials last month to build 210 Dallas apartments for students in Denton with 586 beds in a four-story complex split by a multistory parking garage.

When the plans became public, some area residents said they’d rather see a mix of housing and retail uses at the site, a 3.8-acre lot bordered by Fry, Hickory, Welch and Oak streets. Others raised concerns about increased traffic on Oak and Hickory — two roads already stressed beyond their capacity.

City staff members reviewed the application and issued a report Dec. 31 listing potential conflicts with city codes. For example, buildings in the Fry Street district can’t exceed three stories, according to the report.

“What was submitted doesn’t meet city standards on a number of levels,” said Mark Cunningham, the city’s planning and development director. “My understanding from the applicant is that he just wants to … get feedback from the community and then factor that into the design of the site” before offering new plans.

The submitted plans were preliminary, and the company is open to changing them, Vasbinder said.

“People want to see more of a mixed-use concept,” he said. “We’re pushing to try to figure out what the best utilization of that mixed-use concept is, how that new urbanism can be done correctly.”

The block has been a center of attention since Houston-based United Equities Inc. bought most of it in 2006 and announced plans for new retail shops and eateries.

An opposition group, Save Fry Street, formed to fight the project, and nearly 9,500 people signed a petition supporting preservation of existing buildings and Denton apartments, some of which dated to the 1920s.

United Equities ultimately demolished five buildings, including one that housed The Tomato, but not before someone set fire to the iconic restaurant in an apparent protest of the project.

In December 2007, a divided City Council rejected a drive-through lane in the proposed Fry Street Village, derailing plans to build a shopping center anchored by a CVS pharmacy. A chain-link fence has surrounded most of the block since then.

United Equities still owns the land. Tim Sandifer, the project manager for Fry Street Village, did not return a call seeking comment.

If The Dinerstein Cos. can win city approval of its project, it likely would buy the block from United Equities, Vasbinder said. It also plans to develop and manage the property, he said.

“It’s our name on the building; it’s our reputation,” Vasbinder said. “We want it to be a long-term benefit to the community.”

Homebuilders Hope Boomers Return

Dallas News

Baby boomer buyers fueled a big run-up in U.S. home construction and sales in the 1970s and 1980s.

Now beleaguered homebuilders say they're hoping aging boomers, who are just entering retirement age, will once again give them robust housing sales.
 "We believe this segment of the market is going to lead the housing industry toward recovery as the market turns around," said Sharon Dworkin Bell, a senior staff vice president of the National Association of Home Builders.

The 55-plus homebuyer is being targeted by builders all over the country and was a focus of the industry's annual conference last week in Las Vegas.

The numbers are certainly there. By 2014, a quarter of the U.S. population – more than 85 million people – will be 55 or older.

"The number of people in that age group is increasing, and there is a lot of promise out there," builders' association economist David Crowe said last week.

While more than 60 percent of 55-plus homeowners say they want to keep their current homes, the rest say they are interested in alternatives.

Builders anticipate that buyers in this age group will account for almost 270,000 house purchases by next year.

Even in the down market, some 55-plus buyers move and downsize. Not all of them will want to live in Dallas apartments.

"The good news is they usually have a lot of home equity and can get a mortgage," Crowe said. "The bad news is they have to sell a house."

That worked out OK for Hunter and Judy Whitney, who sold their home in Pennsylvania just before the housing market took a downturn. The couple, both in their 60s, moved into a new house in Del Webb's Frisco Lakes development two years ago.

"When we decided to retire and relocate, we decided on the Dallas area," Hunter Whitney said. "Two of our three kids and six of our eight grandkids live in the area."

Moving closer to family is one of the top reasons 55-plus buyers move.

The Whitneys were wowed by the age-restricted Frisco development.

"We looked at a lot of places – the new construction," he said. "This is more than buying a house. You end up with a sense of community."

Frisco Lakes has sold almost 900 houses since it opened just over three years ago.

"We are one of the few places in North Texas still selling a ton of homes," said Mike Sander, divisional sales manager with Del Webb owner Pulte Homes. "We get a lot of out-of-state residents – probably 30 to 40 percent. Their kids live in Frisco."

Most of the buyers are in their early 60s, Sander said.

"About 30 to 40 percent of our residents still work in some fashion," he said. "But they want to downsize and get into a nice neighborhood."

Former Plano resident Jim Boyd and his wife downsized twice before moving into a 1,505-square-foot Frisco Lakes home in 2006.

"It was at the time in our lives we had begun to consider something other than a traditional single-family dwelling," said Boyd, in his mid-70s. "We liked the quality and variety of the community."

More than 75 percent of 55-plus buyers say they want a home in the suburbs.

But that doesn't mean they want a big house. Surveys show older buyers are more frugal about housing needs.

"The 55-plus buyers are not interested in growing their house size," Crowe said. "They are asking for about a 1,900-square-foot home" on average. "They're worried about energy costs."

Most older homebuyers surveyed are holding down their cost expectations, industry research shows.

"When we asked the consumer, 'What are you willing to pay?' they said $190,000," Crowe said. "And when we asked the builders, 'What are you building [for this market]?' they said $287,000.

"Obviously, there's a real big problem there."

Indeed, builders say they are in a quandary over what kind of housing to produce for 55-plus buyers.

"The baby boomers are absolutely unpredictable," said Andy White, a South Carolina developer who spoke to builders at their convention in Las Vegas. "There is no model to say what we ought to build.

"If a consultant comes to you and says they know what to build, they are lying," said White, whose company has been building developments targeted to older adults since the 1980s.

White said there are many risks for builders who might design the wrong product in the wrong place.

"Let's give it a few years and see what happens when the leading edge of the baby boomers reaches 70 years old, which is in 2016," he said.

Builders who aim at older buyers agree that it's a tougher sell with the recessions and housing market crash.

"Don't assume at all that everyone over 55 is looking for a luxury purchase or has unlimited funds to spend," said Atlanta builder Jim Chapman.

"Their existing homes are worth less," he said. "Some of them are afraid to put their homes on the market."

Many of these buyers are coming from nearby.

"They still want to go to the same shopping centers and see their friends," Chapman said. "The others are moving from out of the area to be near their children."

Builders who market age-restricted projects to older adults say they've seen an increase in demand for speculative houses.

"They are kind of flying off the shelf to people who have sold a home and are ready to do business," said Chris Harrison of Arizona-based Robson Communities.

South of Denton apartments, Robson is developing the Robson Ranch retirement development.

"We are seeing more activity," Harrison said. "Texas apartments for us did not have the big run-up in home pricing" seen in other areas of the country.

01 February 2010

Texas Leads U.S. in High-Growth Cities

Business Week
A new survey finds the Lone Star State is leading in terms of growth rate and household income. Atascocita, Tex., is No. 1 in the state

Tired of reading about how rotten the real estate market is? Here's some good news that shows that even during the worst of the recession plenty of American cities, towns, and suburbs continue to grow.

One such place is Atascocita, Tex. A mostly residential community 20 miles from Houston, it gained more than 1,800 Houston apartments and households in 2009, an 8% year-over-year increase, according to new data from Little Rock-based data firm Gadberry Group. Over the decade, amenities that have helped attract residents to this wooded locale include Lake Houston, just east of the city; the school district; and proximity to the city of Houston. With new roads in the area under construction, "we're starting to see major industry start to take a look at the area," says Mike Byers, president of the Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce.

Migration levels nationwide stayed low last year as homeowners saddled with pricey mortgages stayed put—but there are some positive trends. Research by the Gadberry Group shows that some areas, resisting the effects of the recession, continue to attract both domestic and foreign migrants and, as an effect, bring in new businesses to provide services. While other cities across the U.S. have contracted, these have continued to grow.

Some states are better off than others, though. As thousands of people left places such as New Orleans and Flint, Michigan (the country's two fastest-shrinking cities), in the last decade, communities with the best mix of economic activity, proximity to job centers, and a good environment for families continued to grow. While not entirely spared by the economic downturn (some homes in these areas are now in foreclosure), people continued to move in during 2009.

Texas Grew the Most

Texas came out on top of Gadberry's survey, with four high-growth cities: Atascocita, Katy Mansfield, and Wylie. The report only included areas larger than 10,000 occupied households that met requirements for growth rate, household income, length of residence, and other factors.

Larry Martin, principal of the Gadberry Group, says many of the places with the biggest housing growth at the beginning of the last decade, such as Nevada, Florida, and Arizona, also saw the biggest drop-off since the economy sank. Texas, however, enjoyed relatively strong housing and job markets over the last 10 years, thanks in large part to the presence of major employers in the robust energy business. As of December, the state unemployment rate was 8.3% (lower than the national rate of 10%), according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It also had the largest state population growth between July 2008 and July 2009, according to a December release by the Census Bureau. "New homes and Texas apartments are still being built and people are still moving into these homes" in Texas, says Martin.

Part of the state's strength, says Mark Mather, a demographer at the Population Reference Bureau in Washington, D.C., is its diversified economy. Main industries include petroleum refining, chemical production, aerospace, and information technology.

Meanwhile, areas that depended on the housing boom are now dealing with high foreclosure rates. Places such as Summerlin South, Nev., which appear in Bloomberg BusinessWeek's slide show of fast-growing cities, gained population but, like the rest of the state, may be dealing with high mortgage default rates.

"If you live by migration, you also die by migration," says Kenneth Johnson, senior demographer at the University of New Hampshire's Carsey Institute. "It doesn't guarantee continued growth."

New Business Opportunities

Migration is typically highest among people in their 20s seeking jobs near large urban cores, but employment opportunities are not the only draw. "Amenities are also important in migrational decisions," says Johnson. Many families consider factors such as schools and recreational amenities like scenic areas and parks.

This is a consideration now in Spring Hill, Tenn., which gained 7,645 households since 2000 as many young families moved to the town for affordable housing and work at the General Motors plant, which is now idle. Dustin Dunbar, chairman of the Spring Hill Economic Development Commission, says this has created demand and opportunity for businesses that provide youth activities and entertainment. "We hope to recruit some businesses to cater to our largest demographics," he says.

While migration in 2010 may remain sluggish, "we'll see a continuation of urban sprawl once the economy bounces back," says Mather.