While much of the focus on real estate trends from the last decade was about the influence millennials — people born between the early 1980s through the mid-’90s — had on the housing market, the next generation of renters is beginning to emerge as a change agent. Those of the Gen Z cohort, sometimes referred to as “Zoomers,” are graduating college and starting careers. And in the age of the pandemic, many are finding themselves making moves.
Following the lead of Gen X’ers, millennials were known for moving into urban neighborhoods, often leading to the changing character (and quickly appreciating cost of living) in some communities. But where are Zoomers settling?
According to a report from Rentcafe, the two most popular Illinois destinations for Gen Z renters in 2020 were Rockford and Evanston. In both cities, 36% of the rental applications submitted last year were done by those in the Gen Z cohort — a significant number compared to 18% in Chicago.
Rounding out the top five Illinois cities for Gen Z renters are Peoria with 30%, Waukegan at 26% and Aurora boasting 19% of the rental share claimed by Zoomers.
According to the report, which reviewed nearly 3 million rental applications across the country, evidence points to Gen Z renters flocking towards more affordable mid-sized cities throughout the Midwest and southeastern states. The high cost of living in coastal cities, the changing nature of the workplace from offices to homes, and the lower risk and capital required to open a small business are cited as top reasons for the trend.
Outside of Illinois, the next three cities with the largest population of young renters include Boulder, Colorado, which Rentcafe’s report lists Gen Z responsible for completing 65% of the rental applications in 2020, Davis, California with 61% and Conway, Arkansas with 52% of the rental pool.