Roll out the welcome mat and bake a pie for your new neighbor.
The 4 millionth resident of the central and south Puget Sound region likely moved here within the past month.
That person is among a growing number who have moved to Pierce, King, Snohomish or Kitsap counties in the past year, according to the Puget Sound Regional Council.
Tacoma senior planner Stephen Atkinson said that’s a bit ahead of predictions — we weren’t supposed to get our 4 millionth resident for a couple of years.
Explosive growth in King County has moved that milestone ahead of schedule — 52,300 people moved there in the past year. Climate change could accelerate the pace of growth in coastal cities, including Tacoma, in the next 20 or 30 years, Atkinson said.
“We are in a community that is going to be resilient in the face of the changing climate,” Atkinson said. “At what year in the drought in Central California are people going to finally say ‘I’m moving out’ — or Texas or Arizona?”
Tacoma’s proximity to Puget Sound keeps winters and summers relatively mild. The majority of Tacoma’s neighborhoods are above sea level, Atkinson said, so sea-level rise won’t be much of a concern for residential property values.
Growth in Pierce County has been fairly stagnant in the past decade or more. During those times, “people then tend to assume that growth isn’t going to happen, that it’s a Seattle problem,” he said.
Since last year, King County saw the bulk of the area’s population growth. About 74 people per day moved to King County in the past decade, compared with Snohomish’s 27 per day and Pierce’s 19 per day.
The pace of growth ramped up in 2015. Last year, more than 39 people per day moved to Pierce County — more than double the rate of the previous decade. The total amounted to 14,370 new residents — enough to fill Cheney Stadium twice and then some.
King County saw 143 per day move there last year, not quite double the rate of the previous decade. Last year, new Snohomish residents arrived at a rate of nearly 42 per day — half again as fast as they arrived in the past 10 years.
By 2040, the regional council is asking Pierce County and its cities to plan for another 127,000 residents — enough to fill 360 developments the size of Proctor Station. The mixed-use building in Tacoma’s coveted Proctor District has 151 apartments and street-level retail. Tacoma’s share of new residents alone by 2040 would fill 129 Proctor Stations, Atkinson said.
Those predictions for the area’s population 24 years from now might seem a stretch to some, but 24 years ago, in 1992, Pierce County had 610,619 residents. Since that year, when Boyz II Men and Sir Mix-a-Lot topped the charts, 233,871 people have moved here.
For now, though, Tacoma is a “relatively full city,” he said. That means there’s little vacant land to build on. What remains are lots on steep slopes or otherwise difficult to develop, Atkinson said.
Transferring development rights away from farmland and into high-density projects such as the Stadium District apartment complex could become more common.
But we’re not Seattle yet. Land values and rental rates need to climb more before buying homes and tearing them down to build apartments or condos becomes financially realistic, Atkinson said.