Gen Z Renters Drawn to Vibrant Smaller Towns over Urban Centers

Gen Z Renters Drawn to Vibrant Smaller Towns over Urban Centers

Unlike their millennial peers, Gen Z renters seem to favor vibrant small towns concentrated in America’s heartland, far from the ubiquitous coastal cities, according to a new study from RentCafe.

“Younger people are willing to trade off living in a crowded, bustling city for having more space at home. Many of these heartland places are also much closer to their hometowns, too, enabling a tighter intergenerational connection, which is more valued among younger adults today than with Gen X,” said Jill Ann Harrison, Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Sociology, University of Oregon, in the release.

According to the most recent national apartment-application data, the share of Gen Z renters jumped by 36 percent in 2020 compared to the prior year. At the same time, the number of apartment applicants from every other generation decreased. And, “some cities saw spectacular increases in rental applications from the youngest generation to enter apartment life.”

“With the ongoing shift towards remote work, Gen Z may become the poster child for economic revival in the heartland if they’ll be able to work from home after the pandemic,” RentCafe says in the study.

  • Nationally, Gen Z renters’ share jumped by 36 percent in 2020 compared to a year prior. In 18 of the top 20 fastest-growing cities for Gen Z renters, their share of applications increased by 50 percent or more in just one year.
  • Where are Gen Z renters heading? Well, in an atypical year like 2020, not too far from home; small and mid-sized cities, with a relatively low cost of living, rents below the national average ($1,400), concentrated in the heartland.
  • Thanks to an 84 percent spike in apartment applications, Greenville, N.C., is the top trending city for Gen Z renters. Little Rock, Ark. is next, with a 70 percent increase, followed by Norfolk, Va. Nine cities in our top 20 list are in the Midwest, and eight in the South.
  • Which are THE Gen Z hubs right now? Mostly college towns: Boulder, Colo., Davis, Calif., Conway, Ark., Bloomington, Ind., and Ankeny, Iowa are the top Gen Z cities, where this cohort makes up the majority of rental applications.

Remote Work Leads Gen Z Renters To Smaller Towns

The study notes that In the current socio-economic context that proliferated remote work, college communities in the middle of the country might just offer the promise of a different and better way to live and work, according to a recent study published by the Brookings Institute.

This perspective is also shared by Nicholas P. Dempsey, associate professor of sociology at Eckerd College. He points out that college towns like Boulder, Colo., or Tallahassee, Fla. Need to diversify their job offerings to retain the youth, even if they currently have the largest number of Gen Z’s in the country. However, the long-term effects of the COVID pandemic on how we work and live are yet to be completely understood.

Gen Z Renters In College Towns

“Young people launching careers head to where jobs are in the different industries that interest them, and those still tend to locate in the biggest cities.

“If firms allow many of their employees to work from home after the pandemic, college grads might just choose to skip the move to the big city, and stay in the college town that they’ve grown to love. But that’s a big if,” Dempsey said in the release.

Gen Z Renters Drawn to Vibrant Smaller Towns over Urban Centers

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