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Picket Fences for Rent: 100+ Suburbs Transitioned to Majority Renters in Last Decade

Renters are now the majority in 103 suburbs that were previously homeowner territory 10 years ago, and 57 other suburbs are expected to follow suit in the next five years. Many of these suburbs belong to the Miami, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles metros, with notorious Beverly Hills, CA, among those that flipped.

The very definition of suburban living has been rewritten throughout the last decade as suburbs in the nation’s 50 largest metros gained 4.7 million people since 2010 — a whopping 79% of whom were renters, according to the latest U.S. Census data. Today, about 21 million people rent a suburban home in the 50 largest U.S. metros — 3.7 million more than 10 years ago. What’s more, between 2010 and 2019, the number of suburban renters grew by 22% — a number that dwarfs the 3% increase in suburban homeowners during the same period.

Due to these changes in numbers since 2010, renters claimed the majority share in 103 suburbs, while only four suburbs transitioned to owner-majority in the same timeframe. Moreover, the latest Census data shows that nearly two out of every five people in today’s suburbia are renters, making up an average share of 39% in the suburbs of our largest metros.

Renter-Majority Suburbs Increase by 69% in 10 Years

During the past decade, the migration toward the suburbs developed fast: The number of suburban areas where renters are the majority grew by a staggering 69%. Now, following the switch to renter majority of these 103 suburbs, there are a total of 242 renter-dominated suburbs out of 1,105 suburbs analyzed in our 50 largest metros.

According to Census data, most of the renters are Millennials and Gen Zs looking for housing options that better suit their budgets, as 55% of suburban renters are younger than 45 with median household earnings around $50,000.

Dr. Kenneth Laundra, associate professor of sociology at Millikin University, said that today’s suburbia was far different from the “Baby Boomer fantasyland” it used to be.

“We have reimagined the American dream for a modern, more diverse society where people are having fewer children and getting married much later in life (if at all), and where most good job/career opportunities require one to be flexible,” he said.

3 Metros Lead the Trend, Amassing 38% of New Renter-Dominated Suburbs

Nearly 40 of the suburbs that transitioned to renter-majority in the last decade belong to just three metros: Washington, D.C. (14); Miami (13); and Los Angeles (12).

The largest of the three metros, Los Angeles, is also home to one of the most famous suburbs in the world, which is now mostly renters. Specifically, about 51% of the people living in Beverly Hills, CA, are renters — a result of a steady increase in renter share during the last 10 years. Here, people living in rented homes have a median income of $81,000 — one of the highest of the 103 renter-majority suburbs.

However, when it comes to household earnings, first place belongs to another suburb on our list from the Eastern part of the country. In the Washington, D.C. metro area, Merrifield, VA, was an owner-majority suburb 10 years ago — but much has changed since then. Today, this thriving community with an urban feel has the largest share of renters of the 103 suburbs (64%), as well as the highest household income at $98,000 — nearly double the national median income of suburban renters. And, as the city grew in the last decade, so did its renter population, which increased by 87%. In fact, some even consider it to be among the best places to live in Virginia.

Further south, in the Miami metro, the suburb of Doral, FL — located near the Miami airport — has become renter-dominated thanks to a spectacular 83% increase in its renting population. That makes Doral the third-largest area for renters in the entire country, exceeding 30,000 renters in the past decade. The city’s popularity might be linked to the fact that it ranks as the third-best small city to start a small business in in the U.S. Plus, its affordable cost of living and 13-mile proximity to downtown Miami make Doral a highly appealing suburb in which to rent a home.

Below, check out all of the suburbs that flipped from owner to renter majority in Washington, D.C.; Miami; and Los Angeles metros.

The New Wave: 57 More Suburbs Expected to Flip

Meanwhile, dozens of other suburban areas are getting close to the 50% threshold and will soon become renter-majorities, as well. In fact, we estimate that 57 more suburbs will be dominated by renters during the next five years if their share of renters continues to grow at the same rate. Notably, the pandemic has further extended this trend, having triggered an acute need for more living and breathing space — which the suburbs traditionally offer — as more Americans try to make the most of the new work-from-home trend.

According to Dr. Laundra, many people will take advantage of the flexibility that remote work offers in the post-COVID era — to the benefit of the suburbs closest to urban areas.

“With the increase in remote work, short-term projects and ‘side hustles,’ there’s every reason to believe that the future will be a more transitory, migratory existence. Most of this migration will be toward cities and urban landscapes, where even the suburbs will cluster most closely to urban areas,” he said.

To that end, most of the suburbs expected to flip are in California and Florida. But, we can also see quite a few in Georgia, Maryland, Missouri and Ohio, as well. In particular, Maple Heights, Ohio — in the Cleveland metro — is the suburb with the highest likelihood of transitioning to renter-majority the soonest (if its current growth rate continues). Here, the share of renters nearly doubled in the last decade (up 87%), reaching 47% by 2019. Eleven others including Redan, GA, Hazel Park, MI, Glen Cove, NY and Oakland Park, FL are on track to become renter suburbs in one year.

Suburbs with Fastest Growth in Share of Renters

Since 2010, the rental market has been building up in places previously dominated by owners. Specifically, the largest increases in renter share took place in a number of suburbs in the Midwest and were led by Maple Heights, Ohio, where the share of renters grew by 87%. Second was Eastpointe, MI — a bedroom community located within a short drive of Detroit that registered a record 83% increase in renter share. In the table below, check out the suburbs that experienced the decade’s fastest-growing share of renters.

Top Trending Renter Suburbs by Metro

Use the arrows to see the top renter suburbs in each metro, and how their renter shares changed since 2010:

Methodology

  • RentCafe is a nationwide apartment search website that enables renters to easily find apartments and houses for rent throughout the United States.
  • Data source: U.S. Census Bureau, ACS five-year estimates for 2010 and 2019, population data.
  • Numbers reflect population and changes in population, not households.
  • For the purpose of this report, urban areas are considered to be the cities that define the name of the metro. All others are considered suburban areas.
  • Suburban mapping was completed by RentCafe using U.S. Census Bureau geographical definitions to identify suburbs in metropolitan areas across the nation, excluding the core cities.
  • Our research covers only the 50 largest U.S. metros by population, as well as suburbs with at least 5,000 residents at the beginning of the decade (2010).
Adrian Popa
Adrian Popa is a content strategist and writer for RENTCafé, with an interest in finding stories behind data, exploring and presenting them in a way that’s meaningful and relevant. He mostly covers real estate features and reports that reflect how the industry is impacting people’s lives. His work was quoted by major media outlets, such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CBS News, Bisnow and others. Prior to entering the real estate industry, he has gained over fifteen years of experience as a journalist, editor-in-chief, and communications specialist. Adrian holds a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and a master’s degree in Communication and Media Studies. You can connect with Adrian via mail.

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