The fastest growing active renter segment in the U.S., Gen Z, seems to be eyeing small towns in the country’s heartland—a drastic difference from Millennials. The share of Gen Z renters increased 36% in 2020 from 2019 while renters from all other generations decreased, according to RentCafe. Unlike their Millennial predecessors, Gen Z flocks to small towns in the heartland, Midwest, and parts of the South. These choices may be affected by the pandemic, with first-time renters looking for less populated, more affordable areas. The trendiest city for Gen Z is Greenville, North Carolina and the top city overall for Gen Z is Boulder, Colorado.
The trendiest Gen Z cities are concentrated in what’s known as “the heartland” or middle America. Nine of the 20 cities on this list are located in the Midwest and eight are in the South — far from the coastal cities previously favored by Millennials. Notably, they are small and mid-sized cities and towns, most with fewer than 300,000 residents, a relatively low cost of living, and apartment rents less than the national average, which is around $1,400.
Asked to provide an expert opinion on this trend, Sociology Professor Jill Ann Harrison (University of Oregon) argues that economic factors are leading people to look at smaller, more affordable markets and see their potential. Harrison concluded that one of the main benefits people get is “much more space for their money” in these small and mid-sized cities compared to what they do in big, coastal ones.