Just like the Millennials who headed for the big cities in the wake of the Great Recession, Gen Z renters are moving to large metros in search for good job opportunities and a vibrant social scene. According to RentCafe.com, a nationwide apartment search website, the number of applications for apartments from renters across all demographic cohorts amounted to 3.2 million in 2021, a 10 percent increase year-over-year.
The increase in applications was mainly driven by Gen Z members: There were roughly 220,000 more renters from this generation who applied for a rental unit in 2021, up 21 percent compared to the previous year. In fact, Gen Z was the only demographic cohort to record an uptick in renting activity in 2021, while rental applications decreased by 8 percent for Millennials, 5 percent for Baby Boomers and 2 percent for Gen X renters.
Gen Zers—the first group of true digital natives—are flocking to the nation’s top innovation hub, San Francisco. With a staggering 101 percent increase in applications coming from Gen Zers, San Francisco doubled its share of renters from this young cohort in 2021 over the previous year.
Meanwhile, the tri-state area in the Northeast remains one of the hottest regions for this tech savvy generation of renters. In Jersey City, N.J., Gen Z rental applications increased by 95 percent year-over-year in 2021. With plenty of attractions, affordable apartments and job opportunities, especially due to its proximity to Manhattan, Jersey City allows Gen Zers to live and work in areas within their budget while not being too far from the office.
Next in RentCafe.com’s ranking—with a 63 percent spike in applications—comes Manhattan, which offers a substantial job pool and endless entertainment opportunities. Once a hotspot for Millennials, Philadelphia is the third trendiest city for Gen Z renters, with a 61 percent in applications year-over-year in 2021. Boston, which is consistently viewed as a hub for innovation and technology, rounds up the top five trendiest cities for Gen Z renters, with a 59 percent increase in applications in 2021 compared to 2020.