As published in Scotsman Guide's Residential Edition, August 2008.
After Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast three years ago, more than 250,000 evacuees made their way to Baton Rouge, La. -- helping the Louisiana capital reach a population benchmark previously estimated for 2030.
What the Locals Say _____________________________________
"We're affordable, our economy is doing well, and our unemployment is low. Believe it or not, when oil goes up, our economy does well. We had unprecedented growth after [Hurricane Katrina]. A lot of people moved here. Now it's getting back to normal.
-- Mike Anderson, president, Essential Mortgage Co.
It's still hard to tell how many evacuees actually became permanent residents -- estimates range from 30,000 to 75,000 -- but the Baton Rouge area's population and local economy are returning to their modest, pre-Katrina rates of growth.
Katrina's immediate effects included a boost in home sales and prices, increased new-home construction, and job growth, which sped economic development in Baton Rouge. Now, however, the housing market has slowed, and many new homes built in anticipation of a permanent population boost sit empty.
Despite the slowdown, area experts say Baton Rouge's historically steady growth is helping it withstand the economic storm the rest of the country faces. In fact, though home sales slowed between 2006 and '07, the Greater Baton Rouge Association of Realtors reports that sales still are 8 percent greater than 2004. Plus, despite the increased new-home inventory, the National Association of Home Builders projects a 19-percent growth rate for the Baton Rouge area this year compared to 2004.
↑ City population: 229,553
City population in 2000: 227,818
Rank (U.S.): 79th-largest
↑ Metropolitan-area population: 770,037
Metropolitan area population in 2000: 602,894
↑ Average commute: 22 minutes
Average commute in 2000: 20.9 minutes
U.S.: 25 minutes
↑ Median household income: $36,195
Median household income in 2000: $30,368
↑ Median age: 31.5 years
Median age in 2000: 30.4 years
U.S.: 36.4 years
↑ Unemployment: 3.6 percent
Unemployment in April 2007: 3.5 percent
U.S.: 5 percent
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