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County housing growth among nation's highest

LAWRENCEVILLE - News that Gwinnett's housing growth is among the highest in the nation isn't surprising for Atlanta Regional Commission researcher Mike Carnathan. After all, when all those people move into the county, they need a place to live.

"It's the chicken and the egg argument," he said of whether more people mean more houses, or more houses mean more people. "Population growth and housing growth are correlated."

According to Census data released today, Gwinnett has added 65,313 new housing units - that's homes, apartments and even rooms in houses that access the outdoors - from 2000 to 2006.

That makes it the 56th-fastest growing in the nation, with a 31.1 percent increase in units over six years. Barrow County, with 7,195 new units, is the 18th-fastest growing, posting a 41.6 percent increase.

Carnathan said the fact that 24 Georgia counties made the list of the top 100 isn't surprising, considering metro Atlanta's continued growth and how small Georgia counties are. Because the increases are measured in percentages, a county with a small population can easily post a large increase.

But that's what makes Gwinnett's continued growth so amazing, Carnathan said. Even with a population that tops 740,000 people, it still keeps adding residents, and places for them to live.

"Gwinnett's been one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation for the past 20 years," Carnathan said. "It's astonishing."

The area has a large housing supply, he said, and despite a downturn in the number of building permits issued, Carnathan expects housing growth to continue as people keep moving into the county - albeit at a slightly slower pace, as outlying counties continue to add more residents as well.

"Metro Atlanta is what's attracting people here," he said. "Where they go from there, there's a lot of factors."