Millennials and Gen Z are fleeing cities and buying up homes in the suburbs amid the coronavirus pandemic

US suburbs
  • Millennials and Gen Z are flocking to the suburbs as the coronavirus pandemic continues unabated in the US. 
  • According to new research from investment management firm Cowen and Company, 48% of millennials reported living in the suburbs compared with 44% in 2019 — 49% of Gen Z reported living in the suburbs, up from 41% in 2019. 
  • Home-ownership is rising among both Gen Z and millennials as well, with 30% of 18- to 24-year-olds saying they own their homes, up from 19% last year.
  • While the move toward suburbia has been an emerging trend since 2017, the pandemic appears to have spurred interest in leaving cities. 
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Millennials are fleeing cities and buying up homes in the suburbs amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

According to new research from investment management firm Cowen and Company, there's been a noticeable migration among people ages 25 to 34 from urban areas to suburban ones. Among the 2,700 people Cowen surveyed, 48% of millennials reported living in the suburbs compared with 44% in 2019. Those who reported living in cities fell to 35%, down from 38% last year. 

Cowen saw a similar trend among Generation Z respondents, or those aged 18-24: 49% reported living in the suburbs, up from 41% in 2019. 

"This suburbanization trend has been slowly occurring since 2017, and we expect it to accelerate with the COVID-19 disruption," Cowen analyst John Kernan wrote. "These results are also corroborated by a shift in home ownership."

Home-ownership is rising among both Gen Z and millennials, Cowen found: 30% of 18- to 24-year-olds say they own their homes, up from 19% last year. And 48% of millennials say they're home-owners, a 1% increase since 2019. 

As Cowen notes, the shift away from cities and toward suburbs has been an emerging trend for the last several years. Last year, The Wall Street Journal's Valerie Bauerlein reported that suburban America was booming as millennials sought affordable housing outside cities. Places like Frisco, Texas; Nolensville, Tennessee; Lakewood Ranch, Florida; and Scottdale, Georgia, were among the fastest-growing towns in the US, according to the Journal. 

The relocation trend is reflected in real estate data from major US cities. Housing inventory in San Francisco has risen 96% year-over-year, which means there are about twice as many homes listed for sale this year than there were last year, according to a Zillow report from August

Read more: The tech elite are abandoning Silicon Valley in droves because of 'monoculture' and high taxes — here's where they're headed

The trend extends beyond home sales. Rental site Zumper has noticed a shift in where people are choosing to live amid the pandemic, Zumper CEO Anthemos Georgiades told Fortune earlier this year. People are leaving the New York City area for nearby cities and towns — rents were up 15% in Newark, New Jersey — and a similar effect is happening in the Bay Area: Rents were up 4% in Oakland and 7% in Sacramento in July, according to Zumper. 

And even people who aren't yet ready to make the move to the suburbs appear to be at least considering it: According to real estate listing site Realtor, searches for homes in suburban zip codes were up 13% as of May, CNBC reported

While urban flight may have been gaining steam before the coronavirus outbreak hit the US, it seems to have been exacerbated by the pandemic. A Pew Research Center survey from July found that one in five Americans, or about 22%, changed their residence during the pandemic or knows someone else who did. 

Relocation was particularly high among young adults: 37% of people 18 to 29 said they had moved, had someone move into their house, or knew someone who had moved. The majority of those people who relocated said it was because they wanted to reduce their risk of contracting the virus, according to Pew. 

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