Population Trends for Region and Growth Strategy for Baltimore City Discussed at GBC Newsmaker

While Baltimore City lost about 30,000 residents in the last decade, according to the 2020 census, there may be a strategy the city could pursue to grow population and perhaps get the number of residents back to where it was in the 2010 census– 620,951.

That was just one of the main takeaways experts discussed during the GBC’s October 18 Newsmaker Speakers event, Census 2020 — The Regional Demographics & Baltimore City’s Declining Population.

Annie Milli, Executive Director of the nonprofit Live Baltimore, said the city should seriously consider a “housing first” strategy encourage new housing development throughout the city, which in turn would attract new residents. Such new housing should be a mix of detached homes, apartments, condos, heavily renovated units and low-income housing, she said. The growth would in turn attract businesses and amenities to growing neighborhoods.

Milli noted in her presentation that the city should not focus on trying to get back to its peak population of close to 1 million residents, reached in 1950, but instead focus on a goal of gaining enough residents to match the 2010 census figure.

During his presentation, GBC President and CEO Donald C. Fry, noted that while Baltimore City has been losing significant numbers of residents since about 1980, the region as a whole has gained population, especially Baltimore County, Anne Arundel County and Howard County. With more than 854,000 residents, Baltimore County now has the largest population in the Greater Baltimore area, Fry noted, followed by Anne Arundel County with more than 588,000.

While Baltimore city lost population since 1980, Fry said, its diversity increased. Asian, Hispanic and other minority populations grew in the city, 2020 census figures show.

Seema Iyer, PhD., Associate Director at the Jacob France Institute, University of Baltimore, noted in her presentation that Baltimore was the only major East Coast city to experience a population decline – 5.7%- between 2010 and 2020. Cities like New York and Philadelphia saw growth, 7.7 % and 5.1 % respectively. This is cause for concern, she said, as declining populations can lead to vacant housing, lower tax revenue for government and other negative impacts,

While overall Baltimore city lost population, Iyer noted, some neighborhoods experienced population increases. For example, Downtown, Federal Hill, South Baltimore and Charles Village saw increases in residents. Those areas, she said, likely saw growth because they offer amenities, such as businesses, services and access to things to do – all which attract population growth in most major cities.

In closing out the event, Fry said the GBC would continue to be closely involved in discussions with city officials and community leaders on steps the city could take to reverse the city’s population decline and make all areas of Baltimore an attractive place to reside.