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Detroit — Detroit is still losing residents but the exodus is tapering, according to new estimates released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Detroit's population was at 680,250 as of summer 2014, down an estimated 6,424 residents from summer 2013. That's a smaller loss than the previous year's drop of 10,072 and far lower than the annual average decline of 24,000 that Detroit experienced in the 2000s.

"The population loss is definitely slowing. From all indications, we know that as fact," said Kurt Metzger, director emeritus of Data Driven Detroit, who reviewed the numbers. He is also mayor of Pleasant Ridge.

Experts say young and older people are moving in. Last year, Detroit issued 806 building permits for new construction, mostly for apartments, said Xuan Liu, manager of data analysis for the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments. That's up from 314 in 2013.

"This is consistent with the younger demographic moving in and empty nesters," said Liu.

The population loss also is slowing because low-income residents are being priced out by rising housing costs in inner-ring suburbs, Metzger said.

"There is just less housing available for those people who want to leave," Metzger said. "If they haven't left by now, they have decided to stay."

Mayor Mike Duggan said the city is seeing similar numbers from utility companies.

"It's trending in the right direction," Duggan said. "A number of people have decided to stay and see how things go. ... More people are staying in neighborhoods and more people are moving in."

The census data doesn't indicate where Detroiters are moving. Growth hot spots in Metro Detroit in the latest survey include Macomb Township, 85,459 (a gain of 1,828); Novi, 58,416 (a gain of 487), and Lyon Township, 17,215 (a gain of 765.)

"We've been seeing a pretty steady increase," said Novi assistant city manager Victor Cardenas. "There was a downturn when the economy took a dive. Building permits have been steadily increasing."

Cardenas said the city averages about 200 building permits a year for single-family detached homes. He said some residents are moving within the city, but there are also newcomers.

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Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, who lives in Macomb Township, said he's "noticed the growth, the traffic, the increased interest in business."

"There is a lot of activity in Macomb Township right now," Hackel said. "If they do put a 'For sale' sign on somebody's front lawn, it is sold in a very short period."

Experts cautioned the numbers are estimates. The census uses new housing permits and demolitions, and that may not be the best approach in Detroit, which is amid a blitz to raze thousands of vacant structures.

The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments has reported that Detroit's population is closer to 648,002 and doesn't see the city bottoming out until 2030 when it would have about 610,000 residents.

Other communities losing population include Grosse Pointe, with 5,262 residents, a loss of 66; Wayne, with 17,091 residents, a loss of 109; and Livonia, at 94,958, a loss of 462 residents.

The numbers mean Detroit remains the nation's 18th largest city. The city is below Charlotte, North Carolina, with 809,958 residents, and just above El Paso, Texas, at 679,036.

cmacdonald@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2396

Staff Writer Ursula Watson contributed.

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