Regions where state and local governments do not make it easier to build affordable housing will face a troubled future, according to Dowell Myers, a demography and urban planning expert at the University of Southern California. There will be too few working-age adults to support a growing population of aging baby boomers. Jobs in nursing, utilities and other fields will go unfilled.

This demographic risk “is just deadly,” Professor Myers said. “We’re not building enough housing to keep our own kids.”

In Houston, like other growing Southern metro areas, the influx of relatively high earners has contributed to a real estate crunch that could erode the city’s reputation for affordability.

Kayli Thompson, 34, and her daughter, Analiese, 13, arrived in Houston last year from Ithaca, N.Y., where Ms. Thompson’s hours as a librarian were cut in half during the pandemic.

She was drawn to Houston by its stronger job market and warm climate. Still, relocating was a struggle. The rent money she set aside from savings, stimulus payments and a tax credit did not stretch as far as she had hoped. Her two-bedroom apartment costs $1,500 per month, nearly double her rent in Ithaca. She did not find a job right away, and received an eviction notice; in February, her church paid her rent.

Last month, she began working for a community newspaper, and she now feels the risk she took has paid off. She is delighted to be living downtown in a much more walkable neighborhood. When Ms. Thompson’s car broke down, it wasn’t as much the crisis it would have been in Ithaca.

“We’re happy,” Ms. Thompson said.

Gina Vargas, a 38-year-old consultant, joined the exodus from New York City in the spring of 2020. After 18 years in a city she thought she would never leave, she relocated to the Houston area, where she grew up, drawn mostly by the need to assist her aging parents.

The Houston she returned to was far different from the conservative place she remembered from her childhood, Ms. Vargas said. When her parents, an interracial couple, first moved decades ago to the working-class city of Pasadena, southeast of Houston, there had been a Ku Klux Klan meeting place near their home. Now, as a mixed-race Mexican American, she has felt welcomed into a cosmopolitan community, she said — though she noted there were more Trump flags.

And her New York salary has stretched a long way. Ms. Vargas was renting a one-bedroom apartment in Sunnyside, Queens, but she was able to purchase a three-bedroom house in a planned community in Cypress, 30 miles north of downtown Houston. She also bought a house for her parents, moving them to a more upscale neighborhood.

Despite the latest figures, many major cities are optimistic about growth. New York City lost more than 300,000 residents through June 2021, the census shows, which city planning officials said was consistent with their own analysis. But, they said, the city’s sharp population decline through mid-2021 resulted largely from temporary patterns earlier in the pandemic, including an uptick in residents fleeing to the suburbs and exurbs, fewer immigrants, deaths from Covid and lower birthrates. They said these patterns had most likely lessened or reversed during the second half of 2021, which is not captured in the data.

“The city is on its way back,” said Arun Peter Lobo, the city’s chief demographer. “The initial indicators, at least for us, are in the right direction.”The population estimates are the primary way the Census Bureau updates the population counts from the regular decennial census, which attempts to count every person living in every household and institutional setting. These estimates are largely based on administrative records, such as birth and death certificates and tax returns.

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