Hermiston continues to expand its lead as Eastern Oregon’s largest city, adding an estimated 360 new residents between July 2019 and July 2020, according to Portland State University’s Population Research Center.
It now stands at 18,775 inside city limits.
The center released its preliminary estimates for the year on Nov. 15. They showed Umatilla County as a whole gained an estimated 335 people, bumping the population up to about 81,495 residents.
As Hermiston’s population has grown, its housing stock has too. According to a news release from the city of Hermiston, the city issued permits for 83 new homes inside city limits in 2020 through the end of October. Assistant City Manager Mark Morgan said the city has worked to promote additional housing development in several ways, including the investment in a new water tower and other infrastructure to bring down the cost of developing housing in the northeast part of the city.
“Hermiston, Umatilla, and Stanfield can really all be thought of as neighborhoods in a larger west-end real estate market,” he said in a statement. “Our hope with these targeted public investments was certainly to drive housing in northeast Hermiston, but also to allow private developers to negotiate better prices for land region-wide.”
Hermiston’s neighbors also saw growth in the past year, according to PSU’s estimates. Umatilla added 135 residents for a total of 7,605. Stanfield added 35 residents for a total of 2,280. Echo added 10 residents for a total of 720.
To the east, Pendleton added five residents, for a total of 17,025. To the west, Boardman added 75 for a total of 4,580 and Irrigon added 10 for a total of 2,040. Morrow County as a whole grew by an estimated 145 residents, up to 12,825.
More housing is on the way in the region. Umatilla has been building about 100 new homes a year, and City Manager David Stockdale told the Hermiston Herald in July that the city was continuing to work with developers still interested in building out more subdivisions in the city.
In Hermiston, Morgan said just two of the housing developers the city is currently working with represent about 350 planned new homes for Hermiston over the next few years.
In the city’s news release, he suggested a few reasons for Hermiston’s continued housing growth, including “expansive work in 2017 through 2019 to actively build a deeper bench of housing developments just waiting for the right conditions to pull the trigger.” Historically low interest rates have helped pull that trigger, he said.
Morgan also referenced the city’s comparatively quick rebound in unemployment rates from the unprecedented spike in the spring. According to the news release, Umatilla County’s unemployment rate spiked to 13.9% in April 2020, but fell back to just 6.2% by September,
“Prior to 2020, the main concern that we heard from our business community was access to a large enough workforce to meet their needs, and available housing was viewed as one of barriers to that need,” Morgan said. “I think the rapid and robust return of employment to our region from the sharpest economic decline on record tells me that supporting new housing development across western Umatilla County will continue to be a major need in 2021 and beyond.”
Portland State University’s Population Research Center is the lead agency for the Oregon State Data Center, a state-level partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau. The PSU center creates detailed annual population estimates by analyzing birth records, death records, driver’s licenses, school enrollment, Medicare enrollment, voter registrations and other records. The center also provides population projections to help government agencies plan for future growth, such as building new schools.
A preliminary population report is issued Nov. 15, and after allowing time for feedback from local officials and others that might be able to catch any errors, the estimates will be certified on Dec. 15.