Denton County was one of three North Texas counties with “top 10” high population growth in 2021 with more than 20,000 new residents, according to recent U.S. Census Bureau data.
“We grow about 82 people a day,” Denton County Judge Andy Eads said.
The census data looked at population fluctuations from the pandemic, such as its impact on births, causing a gradual decrease in various county populations across the country. Despite this, Denton’s population rose significantly with 27,747 more people from 2020 to 2021. The county currently stands at 941,647 residents.
“It will be a million in population here in the next few years,” Eads said.
Collin County and Tarrant County also saw population spikes over the same year, welcoming 36,313 and 12,000 new residents respectively, according to census data compiled by the Community Impact Newspaper.
As a college town with two universities, a large percentage of Denton’s population comes from a portion of the thousands of students moving there temporarily to attend college. The University of North Texas itself saw increases in enrollment over the past few years, welcoming thousands of new students to the city.
College students are counted as residents of the city they “live and sleep most of the time,” according to the Census Bureau.
Overall, the higher population numbers likely represented a growing number of people moving into the area, said Eads.
“One of our main jobs is to make sure that we have the resources ready to meet this growing population,” Eads said.
The City of Denton has lower housing prices in comparison to the rest of the state and country, according to Ward North America. Recent Denton resident Robert Bell, 40, said finances were one of many reasons his family made the decision to move from Dallas in November 2020.
“We moved up to Denton to try and find a better place to raise a family than where we were staying,” Bell said.
While looking for a place to settle down with their son, now two months old, Bell said he and his wife fell in love with the vibrant, artistic culture Denton offered and what he remembered from when he attended the university himself.
“I think there’s definitely a cultural component to the city that is pretty spectacular and unique that’s difficult to find,” Bell said.
Bell, a residential services worker in downtown Dallas, noticed a trend of people like him leaving crowded places like Dallas in favor of smaller, more affordable cities like Denton. While Dallas remains the ninth most populous city in the country, it did experience a drop in population of more than 20,000 people, according to Community Impact.
“I’m seeing, from a professional perspective, people leaving a lot of the more densely populated areas,” Bell said.
The move from a big city to a smaller one could be purely financial as housing prices become “insane” and people begin consolidating their money into more affordable homes, said Bell.
“Denton is a unique, interesting, wonderful, affordable alternative to living in cities,” Bell said.
The migration of people in search of better opportunities could put a strain on some resources as Denton experiences “growing pains,” said Denton City Council member Vicki Byrd.
“With those growing pains comes with a lot of positives, as well as some negativity, because it’s also bringing in varying opinions on how [Denton] should grow and which way we should grow,” Byrd said.
While there is no way to stop the pains, because there is no way to stop Denton from growing, Byrd said there are plans to ease them.
Some plans include fixing roads to help with extra traffic, giving more resources to first responders such as police and firefighters and maintaining the power grid to adjust to future extreme weather conditions, said Denton Mayor Gerard Hudspeth.
“We’re also in the planning phase of our ninth fire station to plan for that growth as well,” Hudspeth said.
Other future improvements to help with a growing population will include constructing a manmade lake in Fannin County which will also supply Denton with water, said Eads.
“We’re excited that that’s under construction right now, which will be a long-term source of water here for Denton County,” Eads said.
Hudspeth, Byrd and Eads are all long-term residents and all said they are excited to see newcomers like Bell arrive in the area.
“People welcomed my family when they came to the county five generations ago,” Eads said. “We continue to welcome new folks and we’re excited about the growth of the county.”
Featured Illustration By J. Robynn Aviles