• More renters moved in 2020 vs. 2019, with most upgrading to bigger homes.
  • Los Angeles saw the most renter applications in 2020, with 60% of people making an in-state move.
  • 77% of the renters planning to move to New York City and 72% of those relocating to Philadelphia came from a different state.
  • Millennials make up 48% of renters who planned to relocate last year, followed by Gen Zers.
  • Only 21% of renters moving out of big cities relocated to suburbs.
  • Columbus, Ohio, attracts the most renters relocating from suburbs – 77% – and Phoenix the fewest – 23%.

The rental market experienced significant disruptions last year, mostly due to the global health crisis, which caused changes in both lifestyle and housing preferences. Amid health, affordability, and employment concerns, 18% more renters changed residences in 2020 compared to 2019. According to our recent analysis of approx. 1.7 million renter applications, 69% of renters looked for housing in the same state, with the remaining 31% eyeing a different state for their new home.

Winners of the urban-suburban battle: Renters living in big cities and high earners are less likely to relocate to suburbs

The big exodus towards suburban or smaller towns that many anticipated on a grand scale actually materialized for a smaller fraction of the renter cohort. Roughly 32% of those intent on changing residences last year were planning to relocate to suburban areas, much in line with pre-pandemic patterns. In fact, over the course of the last five years, it was urban locations that popped out as preferred destinations for most renters, with the flight-to-the-suburbs trend losing serious steam. In 2020, suburban areas attracted barely 32% of renters, down significantly from 2016 when almost 40% of renters were moving to the suburbs.

Renters thinking of leaving cities with a population of over one million are more inclined to relocate to other urban areas. Only 21% of big city dwellers applied to homes in a suburb in 2020, similar to 2019 trends. However, a bigger proportion of renters moving out of cities with a population between 500,000 and one million – roughly 35% – decided to go suburban.

Gen Y remains the most mobile generation in the US, with Millennials making up the bulk of renters interested in changing places last year – 48%. However, the youngest generation, Gen Zers, are starting to emerge as an important segment of the renter population – about 23% of the renters moving in 2020 belong to the Generation Z demographic.

The oldest Gen Zers are roughly 24 now, meaning that some of them are already out of college and entering the “living on their own” stage. The following years will, without a doubt, increase the proportion of Gen Zers among the renter population in the US.

Baby Boomers represented only 10% of the renters moving in 2020, and they were also the most likely to relocate to suburbs – 39%.

The higher the income, the less likely the renter is to move to a suburban area – only 25% of the renters with incomes between $100,000 and $2M who planned to relocate in 2020 picked a new rental home in a suburb. However, 40% of the renters with an annual income of under $30,000 who moved last year preferred a suburban area.

Where do renters move to?

Better housing – whether that means location, amenities or pricing – and good employment prospects were always the main drivers of renter migration. Last year also saw the addition of more space to the mix. In fact, more than half the renter population looking to switch residences (56%) applied for bigger homes in 2020.

What’s also interesting is that, despite discussions of the rising cost of living and overcrowding, mega-cities continue to attract renters even if that means spending more on lifestyle needs. For a significant proportion of today’s renter cohort, the opportunities that can be found in big, active urban hotspots often hold greater appeal than the slower-paced suburban environments, as charming as they may be.

To identify the places that saw the biggest renter interest, we zoomed in on approximately 1.7 million renter applications that indicated relocation from a different city, whether in the same state or in a different state. These renter hotspots are all popular, rapidly growing metropolises, but what exactly makes them so attractive? Where do newcomers move from, and what do they get when moving in?

We’ve investigated migration patterns and analyzed several aspects specific to both destination and city of origin – including cost of living, medium income and the local employment picture, as well as the size of rental apartments – to see what appeals to renters interested in relocating even in times of pandemics. The ranking is based on the number of renters relocating to each city.

Los Angeles, the 2020 renter hotspot, has cultural and job diversity on its side, plus sunny skies

Los Angeles proved to be the most sought-after renter destination in the US, as it attracted the most people coming from a different city. Only 29% of renters are coming in from a suburban area, and over 60% of the moves are in-state moves. Surprisingly for a city that is not generally associated with generous homes, space-wise, a good portion of the renters relocating to LA are getting more space. It’s important to note that new apartments are indeed getting bigger in LA, with the average size growing by 107 square feet from 2010 to 2019.

The number one originating city for renters interested in LA is New York City, with New Yorkers making up approximately 3.6% of those applying for an apartment in LA. Whether it’s the expansive beaches and great outdoor space which became one of last year’s most sought-after amenities or its dynamic job market which had over 170,000 job openings by the end of last year, Los Angeles still has many aces up its sleeve. One downside, however, for those who come from New York is the income tax, which is about 4.5% higher than back in NYC.

NYC is the only out-of-state city among the top five origin cities for renters relocating to LA. Others, such as Santa Monica or Pasadena, are nearby, smaller cities. Relocating to LA got many of these renters more space at home, plus access to a fast-paced professional environment and a livelier entertainment scene.

Younger Americans’ preference for urban living will most likely hold strong in the coming years as they are generally driven by the promise of professional and social fulfillment traditionally associated with big city life. “The big city lifestyle will represent a momentarily larger share of the metro economy post-pandemic, due to the pent-up unexpressed demand for those services and experiences which have accumulated during the COVID-19 era,” said Larry Rosenthal, Senior Lecturer of Public Policy, Richard & Rhoda Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley. “The magnetism of cities – and their irresistible allure socially – will reemerge and thrive. Young post-higher-ed movers will flock in the same or greater numbers. To the extent that job-location will transform given the waning appeal of proximity and specificity, one might expect that many transformed addresses will flood the market, making city living more affordable compared to elsewhere.”

Much like San Francisco, NYC and other large urban hubs with historic appeal, LA has an increased population mobility – inbound and outbound. People who grow tired of the City of Angels leave it for Las Vegas, Long Beach or Pasadena, which often feature quieter streets and more close-knit communities.

NYC provides a change of scenery as 77% of the renters moving to New York City are coming in from out of state

The 2nd most popular relocation destination for renters in 2020 was NYC, with a whopping 77% of renters coming from out of state. They came from both suburban and urban areas – 48% and 52%, respectively. However, in the case of the in-state moves, a remarkable 83% of renters decided to leave the suburbs for a more active daily routine in the city.

“I believe the market is anticipating reopening in advance of reopening,” said Doug Ressler, Business Intelligence Manager at Yardi Matrix, StorageCafe’s sister division and a leading real estate research provider. “But more than that, people are still driven primarily by employment prospects, and big urban hubs are where the jobs are. Add the increasing preference for walkability and shorter commutes and we might be witnessing a revival of our urban cores.”

“With the re-launching of the economy, renters will most likely look to maintain the current reduced pricing, perhaps by signing longer lease terms,” Ressler added.

Aside from a varied selection of housing options, with the New York metro area having added the 2nd largest number of apartments in the US last year – roughly 16,000 new units – living in the Big Apple comes with significant perks. Despite the pandemic challenges that it’s been facing, it’s still one of the places whose economy is both strong and diverse so as to support comfortable lifestyles.

Some of the most popular originating cities for renters relocating to NYC are Jersey City, Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Boston and Miami.

For Miami residents relocating to New York City, for example, the move brings about a substantial 62% increase in median earnings and a cost of living that’s only 16% higher. Renters moving from LA are enjoying median earnings that are 23% higher in NYC, while the cost of living is decreasing by 9% and the income tax by more than 4%.

Chicago is the third city in terms of renter interest. Half of those intent on making the Windy City their new home came from a suburban town, and the other half came from another urban area. About 60% of the renters moving here in 2020 were from out of state, less than in NYC’s case but still a strong majority. Some of the most common originating cities, or towns, for renters moving to Chicago are Baltimore, Indianapolis, Evanston and New York City.

Unemployment in Chicago improved by almost 9% between April 2020 and December 2020, which means that the job market is picking up speed after the pandemic fall. A heftier salary and more employment opportunities seem to be among the main drivers for renters relocating from both Indianapolis and Baltimore, as the median earnings in Chicago are 26% and 7% higher, respectively, than in the cities they moved from. Trading NYC for Chicago comes with a 3% drop in median earnings – however, cost of living is 22% lower in Chicago, resulting in a more comfortable spending budget.

Phoenix mainly attracts in-state, urban renters, while Houston renters are likely to come from both suburbs and other cities

77% of Phoenix newcomers originate in an urban area, and 65% of them represent in-state relocations. The most popular originating cities for renters moving to Phoenix are other, nearby Arizonan cities, including Glendale, Scottsdale, Mesa, Tempe and Tucson. In fact, the top 10 originating cities for renters relocating to Phoenix are all Arizonan cities and the potential reasons for relocating vary from access to higher income and lower costs of living to access to a hotter job market and more diverse entertainment options. Renters moving from Tolleson can expect a 33% increase in median earnings, while those relocating from Tucson are enjoying median earnings that are 13% higher. Unemployment in Phoenix dropped from 13% at the height of the pandemic-induced layouts, in April 2020, to 7.6% currently.

Houston, TX,
is fifth on the list of cities with the highest influx of renters in 2020, with almost 70% coming from in-state locations. Houston attracts urban dwellers and former suburban residents in almost equal proportions: 54% compared to 46%. The originating cities for renters relocating to Houston are the nearby Katy, Spring, and Sugar Land, but also Austin and San Antonio.

Unemployment in Houston dropped by almost half between April 2020 and the end of last year, from over 14% in April 2020 to under 8% in December, signaling a recovery of the local economy that’s bound to keep attracting out-of-towners. The city also offers spacious apartments, with Houston taking the 11th spot nationally for average apartment size – roughly 880 square feet.

San Diego sees considerable move-in interest from renters looking for a rise in earnings

San Diego takes the sixth spot on the list of top cities for inbound renters. Only 30% of renters came from suburban areas, and 62% were in-state movers. Nearby, smaller cities, such as Chula Vista, La Mesa and Oceanside provide regular move-ins, but Angelenos also flock to San Diego.

The move from LA to San Diego comes with significant financial improvements – median earnings in San Diego, at $55,000 per year, are almost 26% higher than those in LA. The most advantageous move in terms of potential income is National City to San Diego, one that comes with a whopping 72% increase in median earnings.

80% of the renters that relocated to Dallas, TX, came in from in-state locations. About two-thirds of new residents are coming from other urban areas, and only 30% of the renters moving to Dallas left a suburb for the big city. The likeliest originating cities for renters moving to Dallas are Garland, Mesquite, Plano, Irving and Fort Worth. With unemployment dropping by six points from April to December 2020, a cost of living slightly under the national average and the average size for apartments at a comfortable 851 square feet, Dallas is definitely a relocation option to be taken into consideration.

Philadelphia appeals to New Yorkers but not only

Anchored by health and educational institutions, Philadelphia takes the eighth spot on the list of cities with the most renters moving in during 2020, with only 28% representing in-state moves. The city attracted renters originating from suburban or other urban areas in equal proportions. The city’s broad appeal comes from its long history – founded in 1682 as a place where people could live freely, limited only by their own dreams, Philadelphia holds strong to these roots to this day and is now a diverse, welcoming environment for newcomers. Many of the city’s neighborhoods have gone through major revitalization projects, making Philly an inclusive community where the old and the new blend nicely.

These characteristics are attracting plenty of New Yorkers – people who appreciate dynamic, job-oriented lifestyles but seek a more affordable setting. About 10% of the renters moving to Philadelphia in 2020 came from NYC, and the move got them a 19% reduction in the overall cost of living. Other popular originating cities for renters moving to Philadelphia are Pittsburgh, Washington DC, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago and Los Angeles.

54% of Denver newcomers moved from an in-state place of origin, and only 31% relocated from a suburban area. The most likely originating cities for renters coming to Denver are nearby places like Aurora and Lakewood, but also Colorado Springs and Boulder. Relocating from Aurora to Denver brings renters a better earnings perspective, as median annual income in Denver is 22% higher than in Aurora. The only popular out-of-state originating city for renters moving to Denver is Chicago – and the move is bound to be a happy one, as Denver gets 55 more sunny days per year than Chicago.

Charlotte, North Carolina, attracted a significant portion of the renters on the move in 2020. With a good mix of millennial-friendly amenities and family-oriented neighborhoods, Charlotte manages to attract both urban and suburbia fans – a little over 50% of the renters who decided to move here in 2020 came from the suburbs, with the other half coming from other urban locations. 47% of incoming renters are relocating from out of state. Most of the local moves are originating from cities such as Raleigh, Concord and Durham. NYC is the source of the most long-distance moves, responsible for about 2% of Charlotte’s inbound renter migration. Former New Yorkers are getting a 10% reduction in median earnings – however, the reduction is compensated by a 24% lower cost of living.

Austin attracts more out-of-state renters than other Texan hotspots

Austin is the most attractive Texan city for out-of-state renters: about 40% of renters who relocated here in 2020 came from a different state, compared to only 21% for Dallas, 30% for Houston , 33% for San Antonio, 24% for Fort Worth and only 15% for Arlington.

The primary same-state sources of Austin newcomers are Round Rock, Houston and San Antonio. Among the out-of-state places of origin, New York City ranks first, followed by Columbus, Ohio. Roughly 1.7% of renters moving to Austin originate from NYC, and they find a 17% lower cost of living. One of Austin’s strongest points in attracting new residents is the growing job market, particularly the tech field, which features some of the industry’s biggest players, including Apple, Dell, Oracle, Amazon, Facebook and Google. Unemployment in Austin dropped from 12.5% in April 2020 to 4.9% in December 2020 – significantly under the national unemployment rate of 6.7%.

San Antonio attracts urban and suburban renters in almost equal proportions. The cost of living, which is 7% under the national average, combined with a healthy 7% recovery of the unemployment rate from April to December 2020, are some of the reasons that place San Antonio among the 20 inbound cities for renters. Fort Worth and Arlington are following the same Texan trend of rapid job market revival – unemployment decreased by 6.5% and 8%, respectively, in the two cities from April to December 2020.

Columbus, Oklahoma City boast the lowest unemployment rates among the top 20 cities for inbound renters

With an unemployment rate of a little over 5% in December 2020, Columbus and Oklahoma City make appealing destinations for renters. Besides the positive employment perspectives, both cities have living costs under the national average – by 6% for Columbus and by almost 13% for Oklahoma City – and both host large universities. Ohio State University and the University of Oklahoma are not only attracting tens of thousands of students from all over the country but are also major employers providing good career opportunities for large numbers of college graduates.

Another parallel between Columbus and Oklahoma City is that three-quarters of the renters relocating to each of them came from in-state. However, Columbus attracts many more suburban renters than Oklahoma City – 77% compared to 42%. In fact, Columbus is the most appealing for suburban dwellers among the top 20 cities for inbound renters.

Renters who choose Atlanta as their new home come mostly from the same state – 64% – and primarily from suburban areas – 57%. The most frequent originating cities for movers are Marietta, Decatur and Smyrna. The city has attracted plenty of talent over the last decade with major employers in education, healthcare and hospitality. Delta Air Lines, Emory University & Emory Healthcare, The Home Depot, UPS, Cox Enterprises and the Coca-Cola Company are just a few of the big companies stationed here. But it’s the tech sector that has seen a truly major boom. Tech employment in Georgia has grown by 25.4% over the last decade, with tech workers now making up 7.7% of the state’s workforce, according to Cyberstates 2020™, a tech report published annually by CompTIA. Atlanta, in particular, is expected to see a substantial boost of 8.7% in the area’s base of tech occupation employment by 2026. The city’s tech boom is already attracting young professionals from large metros such as NYC, Chicago and LA. Almost 2% of the renters relocating to Atlanta last year originated in NYC, and the move came with a 22% reduction in the cost of living, and a 6% increase in median earnings.

Seattle, WA, and Mesa, AZ, close out the top 20 inbound cities for renters in 2020, with Seattle benefitting from a 6% unemployment rate, slightly above the national average. 63% of the renters moving here come from a different state, while 70% are relocating from another urban area. Many of the movers are potentially seeing a significant income increase – those relocating from LA benefit from median earnings that are 70% higher, while the cost of living is 11% lower than in their city of origin.

Renters coming from New York City are seeing a 38% gain in median earnings while enjoying an almost identical cost of living. Seattle’s attractive job market and high median earnings derive from its dynamic business sector – the city is home to six Fortune 500 companies, including Amazon, Starbucks, and Nordstrom.

Mesa, AZ, punches above its weight when it comes to attracting renters – the desert city offers numerous opportunities for outdoor fun even during the harsh, pandemic winters, and it’s also a well-known snowbird destination. 75% of the renters relocating here come from in-state, and the proximity to Phoenix results in almost 14% of the relocations originating from there. Other popular originating cities for renters moving to Mesa are Gilbert, Chandler and Tucson.

What the Experts Say

Besides analyzing the data, we considered it would be helpful to ask reputable experts in sociology and urban studies what they think about the trends we identified and how they see the big city lifestyle post-pandemic. Here are their comments on this topic.

Ron Cheung, Professor of Economics, College of Arts & Sciences, Oberlin College and Conservatory

Renters kept moving in 2020, with many searching for roomier homes. However, while some preferred the suburbs, as might be expected, more than anticipated gravitated to urban environments. How do you see the situation going forward, in terms of renters’ preferences for urban vs. suburban living?

After many decades of mass exodus to the suburbs, we are seeing renters increasingly return to urban centers. Part of the reason is that suburban rents are approaching levels in urban centers, and commutes are growing longer due to increased congestion. This makes urban areas more attractive compared to suburban ones in terms of access to public transportation, nightlife, cultural and retail amenities.

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Gen Zers made up 23% of the renters moving around the country in 2020. How do you see this generation’s impact on the rental market during the following years?

There is no doubt that Gen Zers will have a large impact on the rental market in the coming years. As a demographic, this group faces larger student loan debts and rapidly climbing house prices. They are starting families later and buying homes later, and they are more willing to relocate for work. This means they will form a significant share of the demanders for rental housing, especially in bigger cities.

Do you think that the big city lifestyle might go through significant changes post-pandemic? If so, what could these changes be?

I think the pandemic has shown the resilience of cities. Despite fears that cities will be emptied out due to the requirements of social distancing and the closure of bars and restaurants, city residents have shown a great deal of adaptability. For instance, the rapid growth of grocery and restaurant delivery services demonstrates there is still a market for the variety and scale of dining options associated with big cities.

Janice Madden, Professor of Regional Science, Sociology, Urban Studies, and Real Estate, College of Arts & Sciences, Department of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania

Do you think that the big city lifestyle might go through significant changes post-pandemic? If so, what could these changes be?

To the extent that workplaces are in cities and workers commute to them, work leads to greater centralization of residences, both owned and rented.  I believe that fewer workers will be traveling to their workplaces each day after the pandemic ends because the pandemic has shown us what can be done from home.  People living in cities rather than suburbs to decrease their commutes will be motivated to suburbanize.

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People also live in cities rather than suburbs, however, for lifestyle or consumption reasons.  The pandemic has substantially reduced the lifestyle reason for city living.  Fewer restaurants and arts venues being open make the city less attractive.  I believe, however, that these closures are short term and that arts and restaurants will be revived after the pandemic.

So, the effects of living in cities versus suburbs ultimately depend on how strong the workplace pull versus the lifestyle pull is.  Obviously, the workplace effect MUST decrease the desirability of city living, just not clear whether that effect will be very big.

Robert Silverman, Professor of Urban and Regional Planning, School of Architecture and Planning, University at Buffalo

Renters kept moving in 2020, with many searching for roomier homes. However, while some preferred the suburbs, as might be expected, more than anticipated gravitated to urban environments. How do you see the situation going forward, in terms of renters’ preferences for urban vs. suburban living?

If renters are finding the housing, in terms of size and amenities, close to where they already live, then they will tend to relocate closer to where they already live and work, etc. That may be part of what you are seeing. Longer distance relocations are typically tied to changes in life cycle, employment, and other factors that motivate moves.

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Gen Zers made up 23% of the renters moving around the country in 2020. How do you see this generation’s impact on the rental market during the following years?

Generally, younger adults move to the place where amenities they are looking for are located. Some of the back-to-the city literature identifies entertainment, mixed use amenities, entry level jobs, and educational institutions among them. When this cohort enters their family formation years, there is usually a tendency to move to suburban areas at higher rates. Post-pandemic, past patterns of moving to core areas when people are younger and single, and then migrating to the suburbs when they form families, will likely continue.

Do you think that the big city lifestyle might go through significant changes post-pandemic? If so, what could these changes be?

The main thing that we will see more of post-pandemic will be increased remote working. There will probably be hybrid approaches to remote working. People may work from home 50% or more of the time and go to a job site for other parts of their work schedule. It will likely vary industry-by-industry.  That shift will create more demand for increased space for home offices wherever people live, and regional transportation infrastructure to connect people with job sites.

Sourav Batabyal, Assistant Professor of Economics, Department of Finance and Economics, Wall College of Business Administration, Coastal Carolina University

Renters kept moving in 2020, with many searching for roomier homes. However, while some preferred the suburbs, as might be expected, more than anticipated gravitated to urban environments. How do you see the situation going forward, in terms of renters’ preferences for urban vs. suburban living?

Whenever we felt cities were vulnerable and failing, they came out stronger. We can expect some decline in occupancy rates in major cities because of COVID-19, but I do not see a big exodus move toward the suburbs in the coming days. Gen Z and Millennial renters who cannot work remotely would prefer to live closer to their workplaces rather than taking longer commutes in the public transit system during the pandemic. Some of them, especially those who can work remotely, will move to the suburbs for better facilities of the built environment and social distancing. A few Millennial renters will take advantage of lower mortgage rates and move to suburbs. Other segments of the Gen Z and Millennial renters will migrate back to bigger metro cities like New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago to take advantage of a cost-adjusted lifestyle with lower rent.

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Gen Zers made up 23% of the renters moving around the country in 2020. How do you see this generation’s impact on the rental market during the following years?

Gen Z and Millennial renters who can work remotely from home might move to the suburbs for better urban amenities like less traffic and congestion, clean air and water, less crime, etc. Gen Z renters will outpace Millennial and Gen X renters in terms of moving, some of them move out of large cities and relocate to 18-hour cities in search of both well-paying jobs and more affordable housing. Those cities include Raleigh/Durham, Austin, Nashville, Dallas/Fort Worth, Charlotte, Denver, Portland, Tampa/St. Petersburg, Salt Lake City, Columbus, Charleston, Phoenix, Kansas City, etc. They are supported by a diverse employment base and strong job growth potential. These cities will bounce back faster once the health concerns of the coronavirus are under control compared to bigger metro cities.

Do you think that the big city lifestyle might go through significant changes post-pandemic? If so, what could these changes be?

Jane Jacobs, an urbanist, argues that diversity in the built environment is not only an indicator of a vibrant, social place but also economic vitality. Our daily lives are surrounded by our built environment. We have to take a lesson from this pandemic and reshape our built environment. In recent research, Built environment, contagious disease, and contiguous neighborhoods, Batabyal et. al. (2021) find that the attributes, which are important for higher home prices and regarded as environmentally friendly, such as walkability, location in a principal city and highway access, also serve as potential transmission vectors for the spread of COVID-19. The current pandemic makes a stronger case for completely detached housing with high ceilings, provision for sufficient sunlight and improved ventilation for clean air circulation, a reasonable amount of indoor green space, high-speed internet and sound insulated rooms for work from home, upgrading better facilities for social distancing and quarantine. The ability to work from home and less driving will reduce air pollution. The apartment buildings might change the building code and design strategies with wider corridors and doorways, more staircases, a sanitization space, touchless technologies – for entry and exit, calling elevators and controlling temperature, ensuring flexible and adaptable spaces for all users. In the fight against infection and for maintaining social distancing, cities should offer wider paths and smaller blocks for walking, separate bike paths for biking and local accessibility, rather than depending only on mass public transportation. Even though the vaccination program started in a phased manner, uncertainties will remain regarding COVID-19. We need to be cautious, stay informed, and follow the CDC and local administration guidelines to safeguard against coronavirus.

Sean Wilkoff, Assistant Professor of Finance, The College of Business, University of Nevada, Reno

Renters kept moving in 2020, with many searching for roomier homes. However, while some preferred the suburbs, as might be expected, more than anticipated gravitated to urban environments. How do you see the situation going forward, in terms of renters’ preferences for urban vs. suburban living?

If remote work continues to be part of our culture, I think the exodus we should be focused on is renters moving from big urban areas to smaller urban areas. Smaller urban areas provide roomier homes that are more affordable, while still providing similar amenities to big urban areas.

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For example, in Reno, Nevada, we have already seen an increase in rental demand, due in part to people moving from northern California. Although Reno is a smaller city than San Francisco, Reno offers many of the amenities present in San Francisco, on a smaller scale, and some amenities that San Francisco cannot offer.

Gen Zers made up 23% of the renters moving around the country in 2020. How do you see this generation’s impact on the rental market during the following years? 

I think Gen Zers will have a large impact on the rental market going forward. I think their attitude toward remote work may allow them to move around the country more than prior generations. I think we may see them purchasing homes later as house prices continue to rise. This will either mean they are living at home longer, living in some type of mobile housing (i.e. Van, RV, Coach), or are in the rental market longer than past generations. Additionally, I think we will continue to see a shift in the type of rental units that Gen Zers want.


  • Completely anonymized and aggregated rental application data was sourced from RentGrow, Inc. No personally identifiable or other confidential renter information was disclosed or used in conjunction with this article.
  • A total of 1.7 million rental applications between January and November 2020 where the city applied for differed from the current city of residence were analyzed.
  • A total of 5.4 million rental applications between January and November 2016 through 2020 provided the comparisons over time.
  • Suburban places are defined as places with a population of 50,000 or less. Urban places are defined as places with a population above 50,000.
  • Gen Z is defined as the generation born between 1997 and 2012. Millennials are defined as the generation born between 1981 and 1996. Gen X is defined as the generation born between 1965 and 1980. Baby Boomers are defined as the generation born between 1946 and 1964. The Silent Generation is defined as the generation born between 1928 and 1945.
  • The top 100 cities for inbound renters were determined by analyzing a total of 839 cities with available data for the metrics presented.
  • The data on median earnings comes from the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • The data on self storage street rates comes from Yardi® Matrix.
  • The data on cost of living comes from AdvisorSmith’s Cost of Living Index.

Fair Use and Distribution:

This study serves as a resource for the general public on issues of common interest and should not be regarded as investment advice. The data is true to the best of our knowledge but may change if amendments to it are made. We agree to the distribution of this content but we do require a mention in return for attribution purposes.


Maria Gatea is a real estate and lifestyle editor for Yardi with a background in Journalism and Communication. After covering business and finance-related topics as a freelance writer for 15 years, she is now focusing on researching and writing about the real estate industry. You may contact Maria via email.

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