Gen Z renters flood big cities, driving market activity

San Francisco, Manhattan among hotspots: RentCafe


Generation Z renters are zooming to big cities, reviving markets believed to be left for dead in the wake of the pandemic.

A report from RentCafe found Gen Z — those born between 1997 and 2012 — has become the most active faction in the housing market, flocking to major cities that some claimed were doomed by the pandemic.

The platform analyzed rental application data sourced from tenant screening software RentGrow from January to October 2021, and only included adults in the study’s results.

Gen Z renters are coming for the overall market crown. In the past year, Gen Z recorded a 21 percent increase in rental activity, up from 10 percent the previous year.

San Francisco had the biggest increase in members of Gen Z moving into new apartments in the first 10 months of 2021, doubling its share of rental applicants within the group.

Manhattan is also a hot spot for Gen Z, ranking third in RentCafe’s list of trending cities; nearby Jersey City ranked second. Manhattan’s social scene and job climate led to a 63 percent jump in Gen Z rental applications year-over-year.

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Zoomers made up 27 percent of Manhattan renters last year, up from 17 percent the year before as they contend with an increasingly tight market.

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Other major cities to see a spike in its share of Gen Z renters include San Jose (52 percent), Los Angeles (45 percent) and Irving, Texas (37 percent).

“Big cities are appealing for a host of reasons — big cities offer diverse job opportunities,” said Nicholas Dempsey, Associate Professor of Sociology at Eckerd College.

While big cities are attracting rental applications, the cities with the largest share of Gen Z renters are college towns, thanks to students and recent graduates. Davis, California, had the largest share of Gen Z renters at 69 percent; the city is the home of the University of California, Davis. Boulder, Colorado, finished second with a 66 percent share of Gen Z renters, who often move away in later years in search of better employment opportunities.

Gen Z is the only generation to have its activity surge in the past year. There were 220,000 more rental applications from Zoomers in 2021 than the year before, making up 27 percent of the rental application market, trailing only millennials (45 percent).

Millennials saw rental activity decline by 8 percent, Baby Boomers had a 5 percent drop and Gen X activity declined by 2 percent. Overall, apartment applications across generations increased from 2.9 million in 2020 to 3.2 million in 2021.