After the COVID-19 outbreak hit the U.S. in March of last year, New York City rapidly became the epicenter of the country’s largest health crisis in a century. Considering the need to avoid close contact with other people, living in high-density gateway markets became problematic amid distancing regulations. As a result, New York City experienced a wave of pandemic-induced relocations, mostly to less densely populated cities across the Northeast, the Mid-Atlantic and the Southeast.
Multi-Housing News examined migration trends using a tool provided by location analytics firm Unacast, finding that New Yorkers mostly gravitated toward metros on the same coast, but many chose to flee to southern areas to take advantage of the lower cost of living and much warmer weather.
Looking at the estimated number of actual moves into other metropolitan statistical areas, extrapolated from observed migrations using Unacast data, here are the top five metros New Yorkers moved to between mid-March and the end of September.
|Rank||Metro||Population inflow||Average income|
The health crisis has turned Philadelphia into an even more enticing alternative, with disruptions pushing 315,638 New Yorkers—with an average income of $70,733—to move to the metro. Lower rent prices and homeownership costs are two of the main reasons attracting New Yorkers. Yardi Matrix data shows that the average rent in Philadelphia was $1,430 as of September, while New York residents paid more than double that. The metro’s multifamily sector continued to make headway despite economic challenges and new COVID-19 restrictions, which has only added to its appeal.
South Florida acts as a magnet not only for those who look for year-round sunshine but also for those who come from high-tax states such as New York. And although this trend was apparent long before the coronavirus pandemic hit, the health crisis has only accelerated it. Moreover, with more flexibility expected now when it comes to jobs, those incoming from the Northeast may prefer Miami over living on the Upper West Side or in Brooklyn.
Due to its warm weather, South Florida enables its residents to have a more active outdoor lifestyle, which is an attractive perk in the current health context. More than 300,000 New Yorkers with an average income of $64,914 had moved to the Miami metro by the end of the third quarter, and as people feel more certain of their remote work plans, the trend will likely continue to intensify.
3. Washington, D.C.
Despite the lack of housing supply that is driving up costs, the nation’s capital continues to attract new residents. Almost 270,000 New Yorkers chose Washington, D.C., when they decided to move out of the five boroughs in the wake of the pandemic.
Although the federal government and related industries bolster much of the area’s economy, D.C. is constantly evolving and diversifying. Another aspect that is likely drawing people to the metro is the high quality of life. Among other things, access to green areas and parks proved to be crucial in the past few months, and D.C. excels when it comes to green outdoor spaces. According to a 2020 study from the Trust for Public Land that named the capital No. 2 among urban park systems in the U.S., about 98 percent of the city’s residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park.
Boston was another popular destination for New Yorkers looking to move. Some 248,000 residents with an average income of $82,085 moved to Boston last year between mid-March and September.
Prior to the current volatility, Boston was attracting a highly skilled workforce due to its accelerating economy, which put the metro in a favorable position for the effects of the downturn. After peaking at 17 percent in June, unemployment across Boston dropped to 5.9 percent in November, according to preliminary Bureau of Labor Statistics data. All in all, its unemployment rate has been outperforming national averages, with the metro’s main economic drivers—education and health services and professional and business services—holding on.
5. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn.
With mortgage rates at historic lows, small cities in Connecticut were among the first to benefit from residents fleeing gateway cities. Proximity prompted many New Yorkers to choose the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk area when they decided to relocate last year. And this almost immediately boosted the cities’ real estate market, a trend that is expected to endure. New Yorkers have even started to apply to private schools in the area, according to a Wall Street Journal article, signaling a trend that’s here to stay.