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Date of Issue: September 02, 2009

Island population stable, homestead exemptions down

Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford was somewhat surprised recently to learn a University of Florida study found the population of Anna Maria declined between 2008 and 2009.

The study said Anna Maria lost 42 people this year compared with 2008, while Bradenton Beach gained nine and Holmes Beach seven.

Barford questioned the study, noting the number of building permits issued in 2008 was up from 2007, and 2009 permits are ahead of last year.

“I was surprised by the figures. They don’t match ours. If there’s been a decline, we haven’t seen it out here,” she said.

Barford said she also questioned the study because it is at odds with the official U.S. Census Bureau’s 2008 population statistics for the city.

The Census Bureau reported Anna Maria had a 2008 population of 1,829, up just 14 from the official 2000 census figure of 1,814.

The current Census Bureau figures also show both Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach have gained population since 2000.

Holmes Beach had a population of 4,966 in 2000 compared with 5,017 recorded by the bureau in 2008. Bradenton Beach had 1,482 people in the 2000 census, while 1,553 were recorded as living in the city at the end of 2008.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Anna Maria Island gained 137 people between 2000 and 2008, an increase of 1.5 percent. The 2000 census recorded an Island population of 8,262, and 8,399 at the end of 2008.

“The population of our city and the Island has been fairly stable for a number of years,” said Barford. “I have to question the accuracy of that study.”
Figures available from the U.S. Census Bureau appear to indicate the Island’s population has been stable since 2002.

A story in the Nov. 26, 2003, issue of The Islander reported the U.S. Census Bureau had 2002 population figures for Island cities with 2008 figures in parenthesis, as follow:
• Holmes Beach — 5,008 [5,017].

• Anna Maria — 1,829 [1,838].

• Bradenton Beach — 1,500 [1,553].

Based on the 2002 Census Bureau figures, Holmes Beach gained nine people in seven years, while Anna Maria lost nine people and Bradenton Beach gained 53 people.

Barford has good reason to question the study’s population figures, particularly with the 2010 census due next year.

Many federally funded projects are based on population numbers. A decline in population means a drop in federal dollars, while an increase could mean more federal money. Official population figures are derived by the U.S. Census, which is done every 10 years.

Island homesteads shrink
While Anna Maria Island’s population appears to have increased slightly since 2003, the percentage of homestead exemptions compared with the number of residential units has decreased during that period, possibly indicating more are being built or sold as either rental property or a part-time residence.

According to the Manatee County property appraiser’s office, the 2008 number of homesteaded properties in Island cities and the number of available single-family residences are:
2008:
City SFR Homesteads Percent
Anna Maria 1,560 653 41.8
Bradenton Beach 1,796 315 17.5
Holmes Beach 4,096 1,387 33.9

2003:
City SFR Homesteads Percent
Anna Maria 1,472 629 43
Bradenton Beach 1,491 203 17.6
Holmes Beach 3,627 1,374 37
According to the data, Holmes Beach gained the most rental and part-times residences the past six years with 469 more single-family residences in the city since 2003, but an increase of just 13 homesteads.

Islandwide, only 31.6 percent — less than one in three — single-family residences are currently occupied by a full-time resident that claims a homestead exemption. In 2003, the ratio of homestead exemptions to single-family homes was 33.4 percent.

Anna Maria City Commissioner Dale Woodland, who grew up in the city, said he’s not really concerned for now that more and more residences are apparently becoming rental units or vacation homes.

“Even when I was a kid, we had people from Lakeland who bought homes for part-time use,” he said.

But Woodland agreed that considering the economy, more residences than ever are being converted to rental homes. And investment homes have always been a large part of the city’s economy and the Island’s.

“People want to buy in Anna Maria and on the Island. They always have,” Woodland said.

While he’s not concerned for the “short-term,” Woodland said he’d like to hear if residents are worried about a trend in the home market.

“We’re still more than 40 percent homesteaded and we’re not losing population,” he said.

Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said that as the city’s population ages, more homes are being converted to investment properties rather than homesteaded. That’s an indication that homes built in the past five years have been purchased as investments, not for residency.

“We’re in a state of flux. We’re losing homesteaded homes, but we’ve gained a little in population. Considering the economy, it’s just the nature of real estate,” he said.