Palm Coast Is 18th-Fastest Growing City In U.S.

Palm Coast grew 10.3 percent between 2020 and 2022, to 98,411 people, according to the Census Bureau’s latest estimate, released recently. The city is on pace to cross well past the 100,000 threshold this year, and based on the last two years’ trend, likely did so in February or March.
The city’s torrid growth pace makes it the 18th-fastest growing city in the nation in that span (out of 796 cities with populations of 50,000 or more), and the fifth-fastest growing in Florida, behind North Port (13.8 percent growth), Port St. Lucie (13.1), Cape Coral (11.9), and Fort Myers (11.1).
Palm Coast is now the 24th-largest city in Florida, surpassing Melbourne, Fort Myers and Sunrise in the last few years and making gains on Boca Raton. And Flagler County is the third-fastest growing county in the state.
“And it puts us squarely number one in our MSA,” Palm Coast Mayor David Alfin said. “Our metropolitan statistical area is extremely important. Because number one, they’ll have to rename the MSA, which never even included the words Palm Coast in the past. For site selectors and for Fortune 500 companies and for corporate America, we now are on their radar because of our ranking in the MSA.”
As the News-Journal first reported earlier last month, based on University of Florida estimates, Palm Coast was already the largest city in the Flagler-Volusia zone, exceeding the population of Deltona. In fact, it is now the largest city in Flagler, Volusia, St, Johns and Putnam counties. The Census bureau figures specify that Deltona, while still growing, is at 97,265, up from 95,252 in 2021, just a 2 percent increase.
Bunnell, too, has grown almost as fast as Palm Coast, by 9 percent in two years, but from a smaller base, going from a population of 3,326 in 2020 to 3,631 in 2022. That growth is driven almost entirely by the Grand Reserve subdivision.
The population of Flagler Beach, in comparison, has barely budged: from 5,162 to 5,279. that city has different challenges, not least of them its diminishing physical size as the ocean on one side and the Intracoastal on the other continue to grind at its shores.
“No doubt we are a destination, from where we are in proximity and access to major population centers, but still being far enough away that we’re not in the middle of all that,” said County Commissioner Andy Dance. “That’s the challenge for us in our position, is protecting health safety and welfare and the character of the community.”
The vast trove of numbers was part of today’s Vintage 2022 population estimates by the Census Bureau. The numbers also included the latest housing estimates for Flagler County, which also grew sharply–from 55,990 housing units in 2020 to 60,778 units in 2022, an increase of 8.6 percent, more than double the 3.6 percent increase in housing units statewide, but still not enough to address a housing shortage.
According to the Flagler County Association of Realtors’ latest tabulations, Flagler County had a supply of just 3 months’ worth of housing in March–an improvement over a year ago, when the supply was below a month’s worth, but still very low compared to historic standards. The low inventory pushes up prices, with the median home selling at $372,000, and rental prices rising apace.
The growth has innumerable implications for the local infrastructure, social and emergency services, schools and tax policy, with the demographic breakdown affecting those implications. For example, between 2010 and 2020, the population shifted substantially toward an older set, with those 65 and older going from around 25 percent of the population to over 30 percent, while the school-age set fell substantially. That’s in part why health care and assisted living facilities have sprouted, including AdventHealth Palm Coast’s new hospital on Palm Coast Parkway, while schools have not.
“We are we are poorly skewed in our current demographic,” Alfin said, aging as a community since the last census. “We as a community need to find a balance and need to bring a younger resident to the city of Palm Coast for several reasons. There’s a financial factor, there’s a service level factor, but all cities thrive when they are in balance. When cities are out of balance. We suffer consequences. So for example, our ad valorem tax is squarely on the backs of 90 percent-plus of our single family homeowners. That’s out of balance. Our demographic age is growing older, not younger. It’s a fact that younger residents spend more financially and are better for the local economy. Those that are strangled with fixed income or pensions perhaps are not able to spend at the same rate. They don’t have large families to support so they don’t spend in the local economy as well. So there are a lot of reasons why bringing a younger resident to the city will be helpful.”