Gen Z renters<—
And according to <a new RentCafe study<
, those renters overwhelmingly prefer small, affordable towns in the Midwest and the South. The top trending markets for Gen Z renters included Greenville, N.C. (which has a 35% share of Gen Z renters); Little Rock, Ark. (34% share); North Little Rock, Ark. (31% share); Norfolk, Va. (30% share); and Lake Charles, La (33% share). And in 18 of the top 20 trending markets for Gen Z, the share of rental applications submitted increased by at least half over the year.<
Greenville, a small town in North Carolina with fewer than 100,000 residents, saw the sharpest spike in apartment applications submitted by Gen Z, at 84%. The city is also the only college town in the RentCafe rankings.
The remaining cities in the top 5 saw between a 57 and 70% change in apartment applications from Gen Z renters. Little Rock and North Little Rock, with a combined population of 260,000, have average apartment rents of $800 per month. Most cities on the top 20 trending list average fewer than 300,000 residents, and all have relatively low costs of living and apartment rents below the national average of $1,400.
Even the larger cities in the rankings (like Minneapolis and St. Louis) are more mid-sized, with populations in the 300,000 to 800,000 range.
Overall, the share of Gen Z renters increased by 36% year-over-year in 2020, at the same time that the number of applicants from every other generation went down. Of the roughly 3 million rental applications analyzed by the RentCafe study, 22% of applicants were born after 1997, and Gen Z renters accounted for the second-largest share of the rental market.<
COVID-19 partially accounts for this phenomenon, experts say. <
“The economic and public health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have likely influenced Gen Zer’s preferences for less populated, more affordable cities/towns in Mid-America and outside of the large southern metro areas e.g. Atlanta, D.C., Charlotte, Houston, than millennials,” Ronnie Dunn, Associate Professor of Urban Studies at Cleveland State University, told RentCafé.<
The top five locations with the highest share of Gen Z renters are typically college towns where Gen Z’ers 21 and under make up the majority of rental applications. Those cities include Boulder; Davis, Calif.; Conway, Ark.; Bloomington, Ind.; and Ankeny, Ia.<