Did COVID-19 affect city tenants’ housing plans?
Did COVID-19 affect city tenants’ housing plans?

Did COVID-19 affect city tenants’ housing plans?

Freddie Mac researched city tenants * to investigate how the COVID-19 pandemic may have changed their perception of city life.

Survey results showed that tenants’ feelings about urban life remained consistent during our 18-month reporting period, but tenants assigned certain aspects of their communities more value than early in the pandemic. In addition, we found that certain subgroups of city tenants were more likely to say they were planning to move out of a city center.

City tenants’ view of City Living

The desire of city tenants to live in the city has not changed in the last 18 months, our study showed. Answer a question about how they felt about living in an urban area in the previous six months:

  • 15% of respondents said it had become more desirable.
  • 54% said their feelings had not changed.
  • 30% said it was less desirable.

These percentages remained within the margin of error for all three waves of the survey, which were conducted in the summer of 2020, spring of 2021, and fall of 2021.

Aspects of the home that became more important

We saw that city tenants value properties that reflect the resurgence of city life, such as access to public transportation and proximity to shopping and restaurants.

In response to a question about how certain factors have changed in importance over the past year, 41% of city tenants surveyed identified a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood as more important. Here are some of the factors that respondents identified as being more important in the last year:

Factor Percent reported as more important
Pedestrian friendly neighborhood 41%
Close to service, shops and restaurants 39%
Distance to work 34%
Access to public transport 26%

A closer look at those who want to move out of the city

Of the city tenants we surveyed who said they want to leave the city when they move next time, we segmented respondents by ethnicity and level of education. We found the following:

  • White tenants (43%) were more likely than black tenants (24%) and Latin American tenants (22%) to say they plan to leave. Comparing the results of our spring and fall surveys, all groups are now more likely to move out of the city, but black tenants had the largest increase (+9 percentage points) across surveys.
  • Tenants with a high school education or less education (53%) were more likely to say that they planned to move out of the city compared to those with some university education (25%) or those with a university degree or more education (22% ).

Whether they are planning to continue living in the city or moving to the suburbs or rural areas, city tenants cite their three main reasons for their next move as follows:

  • A better quality of life (39%).
  • More living space (34%).
  • The possibility of buying a home (30%).

All in all, as the United States begins to move beyond the pandemic, we do not expect a large number of city tenants to move to the suburbs or rural areas immediately, based on our survey results.

For more information on the rental market and multi-family housing, see Freddie Mac Multifamily research.

Interested in more consumer research? Gain insight into the housing market from surveys of tenants, homeowners and home buyers in Freddie Mac Consumer Research.

* 16.-25. September 2021, the online survey of 1,000 adults resulted in an analysis base of 800 city tenants.

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