5 Miss. counties show big growth

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Mississippi claims five of the nation’s fastest growing counties for new housing, including one – the Hattiesburg area’s Lamar County – that placed among the top 10, according to new data released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The bureau compared the number of housing units at the April 2010 census with the estimated number of units in July 2011. Counties with the highest growth percentages during that time made the Top 100 list.
In addition to Lamar, which placed 10th, other Magnolia State entries were Hancock, Harrison and Stone, which placed 16th, 31st and 49th, respectively.
All three Gulf Coast counties continue to rebuild housing stock decimated by Hurricane Katrina nearly seven years ago.
Lafayette County in Northeast Mississippi came in at No. 76, thanks in part to a construction boom spurred by university students. More than 16,580 students last year attended the main campus of the University of Mississippi in Oxford, which is located in Lafayette County. That’s a nearly 20 percent enrollment spike from five years ago, according to the university’s website.
“The student population is growing, and more people are living off campus,” said Max Hipp, executive director of the Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Foundation.
As a result, the area has witnessed an explosion of new multi-family dwellings. At the same time, Ole Miss alumni have returned to the community to rent condos and purchase second homes.
“It’s booming,” said Andy Fornea, a Lafayette County contractor and developer. “The county thrives on the growth of the university.”
Other factors, Hipp said, include the Winchester expansion and growth of the medical center.
During the 15-month comparison, Lafayette County gained an estimated 512 housing units for an overall growth rate of 2.3 percent. Hipp said the area probably has added an additional 200-300 units since then.
Lee County, by comparison, added an estimated 557 units with an overall growth rate of 1.6 percent. Nationwide, counties in Southern states dominated the Top 100 list. Texas had the most with 20 counties, followed by Georgia with 10, and Mississippi and South Carolina with five each.
emily.lecoz@journalinc.com