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Oak Ridge Census data — not as old as we thought, but too much vacant housing

More 2010 Census statistics are available. The Census reveals that as Oak Ridge’s population grew 7.1% between 2000 and 2010, the increase in the city’s average age pretty much leveled off. Our median age in 2010 was 43.5 — well above the state average of 38.0, but (after years of continually increasing) just 0.1 year older than the 2000 median age of 43.4.

Contrary to the conventional wisdom that one-quarter of the city is over age 65, the Census found “only” 19.3% of us in that category. For comparison, the Tennessee statewide number is 13.4%.

The Census found that a good share of Oak Ridgers are living to a ripe old age, counting 4.2% of the city as age 85 or older. That compares to just 1.6% statewide.

The Census Bureau also has released some more statistics on housing occupancy. Of those 1,722 vacant housing units (11.9% of the city’s total inventory), 762 (5.3% of the city’s housing units) were for rent at the time of the census. That’s well above the statewide statistic of 3.5% of housing units being for rent. Another 303 units in Oak Ridge (2.1% of the city total) were for sale;  statewide just 1.7% were recorded as for sale . A total of 84 units were listed as “rented” or “sold”, but not currently occupied, and 99 were described as being “For seasonal, recreational, or occasional use.” It’s disturbing to see a large number (474 units, 3.3% of Oak Ridge’s housing) categorized as “All other vacants” — my guess is that many of these are places whose owners have died or moved out, but have not yet come under the care of someone who is committed to moving them into the next phase of their existence by seeking new owners or renters.

According to the Census, 64.4% of Oak Ridge’s occupied housing units were owner-occupied; the remaining 35.6% were classified as renter-occupied. It’s not surprising that Oak Ridge has a little bit higher fraction of renters than the state as a whole; Tennessee’s statewide renter percentage is 31.8%.

The Census calculated Oak Ridge’s homeowner vacancy rate as 3.5% and the rental vacancy rate  as 14.3%. For comparison, the Tennessee state vacancy rates were 2.7% for homeowner property and 11.0% for rental units.  In a city with lots of employment compared the state as a whole, those high vacancy rates underline the need for city initiatives to address some issues with the quality of the city’s housing and its neighborhoods.

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