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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Median age jumps in N. Idaho census data

Vacation homes also multiplied since 2000

North Idaho is going gray faster than the rest of the state, numbers released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau show.

The median age in each of Idaho’s five northern counties rose much more over the past 10 years than did the statewide average.

In Kootenai County, the median age rose from 36 in 2000 to almost 39 in 2010. In Bonner County, the jump was from 40.8 to 45.8. In Shoshone County, it went from 41.8 to 46.2. In Boundary County, it rose from 38.3 to 42.8 and in Benewah County, from 39.2 to 44.8.

Statewide, the median age in 2010 was 34.6, up from 33.2 in 2000. And despite the older population in Kootenai County, the median age in Coeur d’Alene, North Idaho’s largest city, was only 35.4.

Alivia Body, a regional economist for the state Department of Labor, said the aging of North Idaho is nothing new. As a retirement area that includes more people with second homes, the median age has typically been higher in North Idaho, she said. Industries contribute to the aging trend as well, resulting in a younger population in Coeur d’Alene, with its diversity of employers, than in more rural areas of North Idaho like Shoshone County.

The effects of the economic downturn also appear to be showing up in the latest census numbers for the housing market.

In Coeur d’Alene, only 56 percent of occupied housing units were owned by the residents, and 44 percent were rented. That’s down from 2000, when 62 percent were owned and 38 percent rented.

“We’ve seen a lot of foreclosures, and that’s putting people in a position where they need to rent,” said Kim Cooper, a spokesman for the Coeur d’Alene Association of Realtors. In addition, investors have scooped up foreclosed homes and are offering them as rentals.

Other information gleaned from the latest census release includes:

• Nontraditional households are growing in Kootenai County. Households made up of married couples dropped from 58.6 percent to 53.9 percent while nonfamily households – those containing singles or people who are not related – increased from 28.2 percent 10 years ago to 31.2 percent of the total in 2010.

• More of those people living alone are 65 or older. About 1,600 more people in that age category live alone now, compared to 10 years ago.

• Households that included any people under age 18 dropped from 37.4 percent to 32.8 percent, while households with people above age 65 jumped from 22.3 percent to 26.3 percent over the 10 years since the last census.

• The total number of housing units in Kootenai County grew 35 percent over the past 10 years, from 46,607 in 2000 to 63,177 in 2010, but the percentage of occupied units dropped. In 2010, 85.8 percent of all housing units were occupied, compared to 88.6 percent in 2000.

• Vacation home ownership accounted for 5,181 of the 8,977 vacant housing units. About 2,000 more housing units were vacant in 2010 than a decade ago because of “seasonal, recreational or occasional” use, a common occurrence in resort communities.

• In Bonner County, that trend was more pronounced, with about 23.5 percent of housing units listed as vacant because they are vacation homes, up from 19.2 percent in 2000.

In that county, only 69.3 percent of housing units were occupied, down from 74.8 in 2000.