Although population growth in Harford County slowed during the past year, the number of permits issued for new residential construction hit its highest point in five years during 2013, a likely sign of more growth to come.
The county and its three municipalities issued 741 building permits during 2013, compared to 588 during 2012, 681 in 2011, 548 in 2010 and 587 for 2009, according to data from the Harford County Department of Planning and Zoning.
County planning officials also expect the number of permits to increase to about 1,000 each year during the next 10 to 20 years. The volume will not be as high as it was during the housing boom of the early 2000s, however, when an average of 1,500 permits were issued each year.
Dan Rooney, comprehensive planner with the county department, said Tuesday he projects "a slower steady growth, not as much as we had historically but growing at a really steady rate."
Rooney stressed his projection is subject to change, given changes in the national and local economies.
"Every year I keep it the same or change it, depending on what's occurring in the growth in the county," he said.
Late last month, the Maryland Department of Planning released its analysis of population trends in Maryland between July 1, 2012 and July 1, 2013, based on data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Harford County's population is 249,215 as of July 1, 2013, according to data posted on the state planning department's website.
The population grew by 675 people from the same day in 2012, and it has increased by 4,389 people since the 2010 Census, according to the state analysis.
The 2012-2013 growth number is the lowest amount of growth since 2010-2011, when the population increased by 1,481 people; the county population grew by 1,859 people during the 2011-2012 period.
Mark Goldstein, an economist with the Maryland Department of Planning, said the 675 figure is the "net" increase in population for Harford County over a year.
"It is a bit curious that the increase in the last year was substantially below what it was in the prior two years," he said.
Goldstein said Harford lost 518 people during 2012-2013 through "domestic migration," meaning residents left for another location anywhere in the United States.
The county also gained 338 people during the same period through "international migration," meaning they came to Harford County from foreign countries.
Harford County gained 825 people through domestic migration during 2011-2012; 324 during 2010-2011 and 245 during 2009-2010, according to the state's findings.
"What happens with net domestic migration is probably the biggest determination of how the population grows from year to year," Goldstein said.
The county also gained 380 people through international migration in 2011-2012; compared to 284 in 2010-2011 and 121 in 2009-2010.
Goldstein noted "you see some brakes being slammed" in domestic migration beginning during 2006-2007, as the housing boom slowed and the housing market began to collapse under the weight of bad subprime mortgages, he said.
During the years 2008-13, new housing construction in the county slowed to its lowest levels since the late 1970s and early 1980s.