Population shrinking in most Lake County cities
By Teresa Auch Schultz firstname.lastname@example.org May 22, 2013 11:34PM
Work on sewer and water line installation is underway where several houses by Thieneman Homes are under construction at E. 111th Avenue and Elkhart Circle in the Wyndance subdivision in Winfield, Ind. Tuesday May 21, 2013. | Stephanie Dowell~Post-Tribune
By the numbers
The U.S. Census Bureau provided new population estimates for all cities and towns, which show growth or declines since the 2010 census:
Burns Harbor: grew 5.7%,
Cedar Lake: grew 0.9%,
Chesterton: grew 1%, 131 people
Crown Point: grew 3.1%,
Dune Acres: grew 0.6%, 1 person
Dyer: declined 1%, 28 people
East Chicago: declined 0.8%,
Gary: declined 1.4%, 1,124 people
Griffith: declined 1%, 167 people
Hammond: declined 1.4%,
Hebron: grew 0.2%, 8 people
Highland: declined 1.1%,
Hobart: declined 1.1%, 324 people
Kouts: grew 1.8%, 34 people
Lake Station: declined 1.4%,
Lowell: grew 0.7%, 64 people
Merrillville: grew 1.1%, 385 people
Munster: declined 0.8%,
New Chicago: declined 0.9%,
Ogden Dunes: grew 0.1%, 2 people
Portage: grew 0.1%, 32 people
Porter: grew 0.4%, 20 people
St. John: grew 3.2%, 485 people
Schererville: declined 0.5%,
Schneider: declined 0.7%,
Valparaiso: grew 0.9%,
Whiting: declined 1.2%, 60 people
Winfield: grew 11.4%, 501 people
Updated: June 24, 2013 1:54PM
Lake County communities across the board have seen a loss in population the past two years, including ones that had recently seen growth, according to new estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Crown Point was the only Lake County city to see a gain in residents, with an increase of 3.1 percent, or 854 people. Just five towns saw growth from 2010 to 2012.
The numbers were better in Porter County, where all cities and towns saw at least some degree of growth. Burns Harbor saw the biggest increase in Porter County with 5.7 percent, or 66 people. Valparaiso’s population grew by 0.9 percent and Portage grew by 0.1 percent.
The numbers for Lake County reflect county-level estimates released earlier this year, which showed the county as a whole had seen its population drop by about half a percent from 2010 to 2012.
The new numbers show population estimates for all cities and towns. Hammond and Gary have the biggest decrease, not only among Lake County communities but for all cities in the nation with a population greater than 50,000. At a drop of 1.4 percent, the two cities are tied for seventh nationally for the biggest loss.
Hammond continues to hold a slight edge as the largest city in the region, with 79,686 residents to Gary’s 79,170.
Other cities continued to see drops, including Lake Station and East Chicago, but others that saw growth during the past decade, such as Munster, Dyer and Schererville, saw more residents leave than move in over the past two years.
Griffith had a loss of about
1 percent, or about 150 people, but Town Council Vice President Rick Ryfa said he was not greatly concerned by the numbers. He expects a large chunk of that loss comes from apartment dwellers. He noted that the Mansards Apartments are at the lowest occupancy level. The town’s north side is an area Griffith wants to focus on, he said.
“We’re working very hard with the Mansards to not only change the perception but the reality of things,” Ryfa said.
He noted that his town had the lowest inventory of three-bedroom homes in the county, which points to a strong real estate market.
“We’re still very affordable and a desirable place to live,” Ryfa said. “As landlocked as Griffith is, I anticipate we’ll see an increase in population in the next few years.”
Winfield claimed Lake County’s highest growth, with an increase of 11 percent. The town was followed by St. John, Crown Point, Merrillville, Cedar Lake and Lowell.
Merrillville Council President Carol Miano said her community’s many strengths have helped to convince more people to move in. The town’s population increased by 1.1 percent, or 385 people.
“We have everything that any big city could offer,” she said.
The town’s low housing costs help, she said. Miano herself moved to Merrillville from Illinois after co-workers and friends convinced her of the lower cost of living, she said.
She praised the schools, saying students who took part in Merrillville’s recent Municipal Day focused on learning about civic engagement.
“They went through this long, boring meeting talking about boring subjects, but I tell you what, they were very patient and they were very good,” Miano said.
The town has recently struggled with public safety, as a state law froze its tax levy while more and more people continued to move in, meaning Merrillville couldn’t hire as many police officers as it needed.
However, the state just lifted that freeze, and Miano said people can find crime in any community.
“We have to keep our residents safe, because if we have an influx of break-ins and robberies, who’s going to come and live here?” she said.