A population boom is reshaping this ‘affordable’ California region


Word has been out about the Inland Empire region of California for a while now. The large, multi-county area east of Los Angeles and Orange County has seen a ton of new investment and overall growth in recent years, spurred on partly by coastal renters moving east to buy standalone homes in one of Southern California’s last “affordable” regions

Now, new population numbers released by the state further back up all that talk. Last week, the California Department of Finance released its annual report on population and housing estimates statewide, and the data shows that the Inland Empire is very much booming. Menifee, in Riverside County, was one of the state’s largest population growth centers statewide, adding more than 2,000 people just last year. Victorville in San Bernardino County wasn’t far behind, pushing its total population to nearly 140,000 people in 2023. The high desert city is larger than Santa Clara and Berkeley and sits just behind Pasadena and Orange.

The Inland Empire’s Press-Enterprise went even deeper on some of the localized numbers. Riverside and San Bernardino counties collectively added more than 22,000 people last year, though the report does not say how many of those people moved from elsewhere in California, came from out of state, or were new births. Riverside and San Bernardino counties also now count 14 total cities with populations north of 100,000 people. All of that growth has led to a buying spree for some big-time real estate investors and has caused a ton of fluctuation in the median home price across the area.

Collectively, California added 67,000 total people to the state, further eroding the enduring “California exodus” myth.

Of course, the population data only speaks to one year across the state, and the Inland Empire isn’t the only hot spot for overall growth in the report. Largely rural Imperial County (at the southern border, between San Diego and Arizona) had multiple cities land in the top 20 for population growth by percent change, as did the broader San Joaquin Valley area. Bakersfield in particular has been a hotbed of new housing lately, with residents from Orange County, Los Angeles and the Bay Area all descending on what was for a long time the state’s most derided city.


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