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Housing prices are rising rapidly across the Mountain West, especially in resort towns, and that’s making it difficult for many residents to buy a home or rent an apartment. In this ongoing series, the Mountain West News Bureau is examining the problem — and potential solutions — across the region.

Census data shows the Mountain West added 351,000 new residents during pandemic

A map of the United States with population percent changes. Many states across the Mountain West experienced increases of one percent or higher.
U.S. Census Bureau

News Brief

Population growth in the Mountain West has surged during the pandemic, according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Idaho was the fastest-growing state in the nation between April, 2020, and July, 2021 – its population rose by 2.9%. Utah, Montana, Arizona and Nevada also cracked the top 10 list of fastest-growing states. Even Wyoming, which has long struggled with population declines, added about 1,900 new residents. New Mexico, however, lost about 1,600 residents according to the census estimates.

The boom comes as the West struggles with growing water shortages and an affordable housing crisis. Over the past year, median home prices jumped by more than a third in some cities, including Missoula, Montana.

During a meeting about housing affordability there this month, county commissioner Josh Slotnick said new residents were attracted to his city because of its wealth of open spaces and outdoor recreation opportunities such as fishing, skiing and mountain biking.

“These places make living here wonderful,” he said. “The reason why we’re in this crisis, I believe, is because so many people want to live here.”

Overall, the region added more than 351,000 new residents between April 2020 and July 2021. Here’s the state-by-state breakdown:

  • Arizona added about 125,000 new residents.
  • Colorado added about 38,000 new residents.
  • Idaho added about 62,000 new residents.
  • Montana added about 20,000 new residents.
  • Nevada added about 39,000 new residents. 
  • New Mexico lost about 1,600 residents. 
  • Utah added 66,000 new residents.
  • Wyoming added 1,900 new residents.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Nevada Public Radio, Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2021 Boise State Public Radio News. To see more, visit Boise State Public Radio News.