Cleveland not likely to lose two wards based on new population estimates

May 24, 2018 GMT

Cleveland not likely to lose two wards based on new population estimates

CLEVELAND, Ohio – New U.S. Census estimates suggest Cleveland is not losing population at a rate that would force the reduction of two City Council seats after the 2020 census. 

Cleveland’s charter requires two wards to be eliminated if the city’s population in the 2020 census falls below 375,000. And such a reduction has been anticipated by many, based on the city’s economic struggles earlier in this decade. 

But figures released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau estimate Cleveland’s population as of July 2017 was 385,525 – far above the level that would trigger a reduction in council seats from 17 to 15. 

City voters approved a charter amendment in 2008 that ties the number of council seats to Cleveland’s population. The amendment requires the city to maintain an odd number of seats and calls for each ward to have about 25,000 people. 

That amendment prompted a reduction in council seats from 21 to 19 seats in 2009. The number was reduced to 17 seats in 2013, the year Cleveland held its first municipal election following the 2010 census. 

It is important to keep in mind that the latest population figures are based on estimates rather than an actual count, which was last done in 2010. 

The Census Bureau’s annual estimates are adjusted based on recorded changes in housing – demolitions and new construction. Those estimates are adjusted further based on annual county estimates, which reflect births and deaths. 

Clevelanders won’t know for sure whether they will lose wards until the 2020 census results are made public, probably sometime in early 2021.  

New ward boundaries could be in place for the 2021 or 2025 municipal elections, depending on when the Census results become available.  

The city would lose two wards if the population were to fall more than 10,000 below Thursday’s estimate. In the last few years, estimates have suggested the population is falling by less than 2,000 people per year.  

At the same time, the city has experienced significant growth in housing in some areas, and that could affect where ward boundaries are drawn.  

The population in Cleveland’s downtown, for example, has increased 79 percent since 2010, according to the Downtown Cleveland Alliance. Projections show the population could reach 18,000 by the end of 2018.  

The Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood has seen a building boom, particularly north of Detroit near Gordon Square. A 2014 ranking by the real estate company Keller Williams put Detroit-Shoreway and Ohio City/Treemont areas as the hottest housing markets in Greater Cleveland. 

And the population in and around University Circle continues to grow. 

Could Cleveland grow enough to force the addition of two wards? 

For that to happen, the city would need to top Thursday’s estimate by 35,000 people. The charter calls for adding two wards if Cleveland’s total tops 425,000.