What the Rise in Renting Means for Cities

Plus, where renting is gaining in popularity the fastest.
by | April 2019
Luxury apartments
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Like many cities, Allentown, Pa., has experienced a slow but seismic shift in its housing market in recent decades. New apartment complexes keep popping up while developers convert vacant industrial facilities into rental housing. Meanwhile, construction of single-family homes has ground to a near halt. Since 2000, the city’s renter population has grown by 46 percent, while the number of residents in owner-occupied units has declined 12 percent.

The city, now majority-renter, epitomizes what’s occurred elsewhere as a greater proportion of Americans opt to forgo -- or at least delay -- homeownership. This carries numerous ramifications for localities, from renters’ different demands for services to the way they interact with government. While small upticks in renting rarely provoke major consequences, long-term shifts can reshape cities in a number of ways. 

Governing reviewed Census data covering the period since 2000 for all cities with at least 100,000 residents. We found a median increase in the renter population of 31 percent. Many of the jurisdictions with the steepest increases were in rapidly developing areas in Arizona, Florida and Texas. Over the same period, the number in owner-occupied dwellings also rose, but only by a median of 7 percent.

The rental influx hasn’t only been confined to booming areas. Fifty-three cities, including distressed ones like Allentown, added more than 10,000 renters and lost homeowners. Philadelphia provides one of the starkest examples. Its owner-occupied population dropped by about 100,000 since the start of the century, while the city’s large cohort of young adults and supply of new apartments has increased the renter population by 30 percent. Similar shifts have taken place in Akron, Ohio; Glendale, Ariz.; and Memphis, Tenn. Of all the cities losing owner-occupied units, all but eight still added renters. In several New Jersey cities just outside New York, about 7 out of 10 residents rent, and their numbers are climbing.

 

 

A confluence of several factors is behind renting’s steady ascent. Among them are young Americans delaying home purchases; steep prices that remain out of reach for many; and an expansion of the rental housing market. In Allentown, a large supply of affordable rental units is attracting low-income families, including thousands of evacuees from Puerto Rico. At the same time, a mix of millennials and empty nesters with higher incomes is moving into newer units.

Renters require a different set of resources than homeowners. Allentown employs 15 dedicated staff to inspect each unit once every five years and respond to multiple disruptive conduct reports daily. They often encounter absentee landlords from New Jersey and New York who purchased homes as investment properties. “With so many transients coming in and out of these properties, it doesn’t maintain a stable neighborhood,” says Leonard Lightner, the city’s director of community and economic development.

An analysis of New York City 311 call data published in the journal Urban Affairs Review found that, when other variables are controlled for, neighborhoods with more renters had higher rates of graffiti and noise complaints. Homeowners, meanwhile, requested slightly more “government goods,” such as street repairs and waste collection.

Renters and homeowners tend to hold different expectations for public services.

Renters in most cities generally view their service delivery less favorably than do homeowners, according to the National Research Center Inc., which conducts citizen satisfaction surveys.

It’s possible for a substantial shift toward renting to impact a city’s finances as well. Renters generally do not add to the tax base as much as homeowners, although this can depend on how taxes are structured. An Urban Institute analysis found renters were more likely to struggle in paying for basic needs. Renters in dense areas are also less likely to own cars than residents of single-family homes.

A large body of research has further linked homeownership with civic participation. Some of this has to do with residential tenure, as homeowners remain in neighborhoods longer and have a chance to put down deeper roots. But research from Georgetown University sociologist Brian McCabe finds that even after accounting for residential stability, homeowners are 1.62 times more likely to vote in local elections than renters, and are more likely to join civic and neighborhood groups. “A lot of voting is about having a sense of belonging,” he says. “Homeowners identify more with a place.”

This doesn’t all mean that a shift to renting is bad for cities. The National League of Cities’ James Brooks says they must engage renters differently than homeowners. He recommends, for example, that city programs reach out to renters in the neighborhoods where they live, rather than requiring them to come to city hall. “Places are stable and safe because they’re engaged and the neighbors know one another,” Brooks says. “They collaborate together and look out for one another, whether they own or rent.”

 

Housing Trends in Your City

City 2000-17 Rent Change (%) 2000-17 Rent Change 2000-17 Owner-Occupied Change (%) 2000-17 Owner-Occupied Change
Enterprise, Nevada 1217% 59,679 862% 81,652
Lehigh Acres, Florida 1054% 49,539 121% 34,189
Surprise, Arizona 827% 31,773 248% 66,638
Frisco, Texas 634% 27,597 324% 94,039
Murrieta, California 360% 27,570 103% 37,757
Gilbert, Arizona 341% 48,838 76% 73,029
Elk Grove, California 300% 33,986 147% 71,483
Pearland, Texas 266% 15,814 190% 59,910
McKinney, Texas 259% 35,184 194% 75,806
The Woodlands, Texas 235% 18,871 73% 34,763
Miramar, Florida 216% 26,427 62% 37,175
Spring Hill, Florida 199% 18,805 29% 16,763
North Las Vegas, Nevada 193% 69,229 62% 48,916
Temecula, California 184% 24,720 65% 28,522
Peoria, Arizona 184% 27,953 27% 25,065
Port St. Lucie, Florida 179% 29,845 84% 60,006
Highlands Ranch, Colorado 175% 11,399 36% 23,000
Brandon, Florida 172% 31,078 3% 1,800
Cape Coral, Florida 163% 34,780 46% 36,678
Irvine, California 155% 75,729 43% 37,597
West Jordan, Utah 151% 15,370 49% 28,165
Victorville, California 143% 32,545 51% 20,885
Spring Valley, Nevada 135% 60,354 24% 17,511
Thornton, Colorado 134% 21,139 44% 28,805
Henderson, Nevada 122% 56,928 40% 51,284
Round Rock, Texas 121% 21,349 82% 34,567
Cary, North Carolina 114% 23,777 57% 41,637
Chandler, Arizona 109% 46,661 17% 22,101
Roseville, California 103% 21,654 50% 28,913
Fayetteville, North Carolina 103% 52,933 41% 26,771
Murfreesboro, Tennessee 100% 27,354 81% 30,089
Moreno Valley, California 98% 40,122 21% 20,950
Santa Clarita, California 93% 32,632 22% 24,858
Fontana, California 92% 34,725 49% 44,123
Rancho Cucamonga, California 91% 29,920 19% 17,055
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma 90% 12,584 31% 18,776
Aurora, Illinois 90% 32,586 24% 25,012
Lewisville, Texas 82% 24,256 4% 1,757
Palm Bay, Florida 81% 15,077 22% 13,095
Plano, Texas 80% 43,589 10% 15,949
Sterling Heights, Michigan 79% 14,189 -6% -6,426
Naperville, Illinois 78% 12,903 4% 4,456
Antioch, California 78% 19,343 -1% -348
Charlotte, North Carolina 77% 158,342 39% 125,203
Killeen, Texas 77% 32,020 49% 21,804
Bakersfield, California 75% 67,215 37% 57,585
Pembroke Pines, Florida 75% 19,152 10% 10,764
Warren, Michigan 74% 17,475 -18% -20,588
Palmdale, California 74% 23,948 20% 16,712
West Valley City, Utah 73% 18,245 10% 8,659
Pompano Beach, Florida 71% 20,817 16% 7,166
Raleigh, North Carolina 69% 80,430 63% 89,670
Sunrise Manor, Nevada 68% 38,613 0% 407
Clovis, California 67% 16,035 46% 20,192
Orlando, Florida 66% 67,679 22% 17,276
Gainesville, Florida 65% 26,738 8% 3,215
Wilmington, North Carolina 64% 22,464 42% 15,637
Aurora, Colorado 64% 58,978 12% 22,254
Lancaster, California 64% 26,459 21% 14,887
Las Vegas, Nevada 62% 112,334 10% 30,335
Clarksville, Tennessee 62% 24,512 34% 20,536
Overland Park, Kansas 62% 21,827 14% 15,780
Laredo, Texas 59% 33,407 38% 44,917
West Palm Beach, Florida 57% 20,233 14% 5,735
Visalia, California 56% 19,365 35% 19,311
Denton, Texas 56% 21,133 75% 26,440
McAllen, Texas 56% 19,454 20% 13,948
Carlsbad, California 56% 13,361 42% 22,093
Hillsboro, Oregon 55% 16,200 40% 15,886
Olathe, Kansas 55% 11,584 42% 29,883
Mesa, Arizona 55% 66,928 6% 15,433
Rochester, Minnesota 55% 10,277 27% 17,370
Glendale, Arizona 55% 37,428 -10% -15,354
Fort Worth, Texas 54% 113,959 59% 184,401
Joliet, Illinois 53% 13,736 40% 29,968
Midland, Texas 53% 14,100 32% 21,665
Mesquite, Texas 52% 19,610 0% -42
Santa Maria, California 52% 19,586 25% 9,166
Bellevue, Washington 52% 19,018 14% 10,185
Columbia, Missouri 51% 18,345 37% 14,910
Richardson, Texas 51% 14,808 7% 4,311
Pueblo, Colorado 51% 16,185 -14% -9,589
Chula Vista, California 51% 35,840 52% 53,458
Odessa, Texas 51% 13,336 19% 11,731
Phoenix, Arizona 51% 240,092 2% 17,910
Elgin, Illinois 49% 12,132 10% 6,660
Fort Collins, Colorado 48% 20,609 26% 18,085
High Point, North Carolina 48% 15,504 14% 7,053
Fargo, North Dakota 47% 18,226 17% 8,078
Tallahassee, Florida 47% 33,435 6% 4,262
Simi Valley, California 47% 10,863 5% 4,161
Corona, California 47% 17,267 24% 21,336
Austin, Texas 46% 143,994 36% 115,930
Allentown, Pennsylvania 46% 20,348 -12% -7,043
Jacksonville, Florida 45% 109,799 4% 17,734
Grand Prairie, Texas 44% 19,538 51% 42,056
Kent, Washington 43% 16,329 72% 29,383
Norman, Oklahoma 43% 14,708 13% 6,994
Tempe, Arizona 43% 29,942 -18% -15,070
North Charleston, South Carolina 43% 16,955 32% 11,366
Oxnard, California 43% 30,188 7% 7,067
Tampa, Florida 43% 52,128 6% 9,589
Carrollton, Texas 42% 14,711 10% 7,246
Lubbock, Texas 42% 32,002 11% 13,090
Paradise, Nevada 42% 39,091 7% 6,662
Scottsdale, Arizona 42% 22,253 10% 14,267
Sioux Falls, South Dakota 42% 15,986 36% 29,540
Colorado Springs, Colorado 42% 51,130 17% 38,266
Riverside, California 42% 40,073 14% 21,653
San Antonio, Texas 42% 175,120 20% 142,501
Lafayette, Louisiana 41% 15,738 1% 559
Des Moines, Iowa 41% 23,577 -5% -6,231
Coral Springs, Florida 41% 15,026 -3% -2,094
Chesapeake, Virginia 40% 18,053 11% 15,924
Thousand Oaks, California 39% 10,302 2% 1,762
Santa Rosa, California 39% 23,090 5% 4,303
Durham, North Carolina 39% 33,765 39% 35,388
Reno, Nevada 38% 32,920 28% 25,213
Greensboro, North Carolina 38% 35,476 20% 24,119
Lexington, Kentucky 38% 36,288 12% 18,273
Boise City, Idaho 38% 22,051 11% 13,933
Huntsville, Alabama 37% 19,741 11% 10,706
Springfield, Missouri 37% 22,686 -11% -8,526
Charleston, South Carolina 37% 14,545 39% 20,221
Columbus, Ohio 37% 119,811 4% 15,334
Winston-Salem, North Carolina 37% 27,737 26% 26,384
Eugene, Oregon 36% 20,293 6% 4,602
Lincoln, Nebraska 35% 26,608 17% 23,682
Fairfield, California 35% 12,680 11% 6,206
Stockton, California 34% 39,472 17% 20,957
Billings, Montana 34% 9,356 17% 9,823
Albuquerque, New Mexico 34% 52,730 21% 58,763
Independence, Missouri 34% 11,094 -9% -7,069
Westminster, Colorado 34% 8,955 2% 1,759
Salem, Oregon 33% 17,667 13% 9,573
Fort Wayne, Indiana 33% 22,547 26% 34,266
Nashville, Tennessee 33% 70,145 13% 41,257
Omaha, Nebraska 33% 42,743 12% 29,407
Oceanside, California 33% 19,657 -5% -5,287
Indianapolis, Indiana 33% 91,957 -4% -19,505
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33% 20,078 9% 7,654
Vallejo, California 32% 12,859 -11% -8,332
Denver, Colorado 32% 75,731 15% 45,875
St. Paul, Minnesota 32% 33,596 -10% -17,433
Miami, Florida 32% 69,699 9% 11,873
Arvada, Colorado 32% 6,868 8% 6,209
Knoxville, Tennessee 31% 22,332 -10% -9,335
San Bernardino, California 31% 25,407 -1% -529
Hollywood, Florida 31% 14,580 -4% -3,645
Athens-Clarke County, Georgia 31% 16,153 9% 3,568
Rialto, California 31% 8,661 4% 2,533
Fremont, California 31% 20,015 6% 7,679
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 31% 56,040 21% 66,478
Gresham, Oregon 30% 11,335 16% 8,173
Fresno, California 30% 63,281 13% 27,425
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 30% 157,778 -11% -100,288
Seattle, Washington 30% 73,706 19% 55,465
Richmond, Virginia 30% 28,167 -5% -4,835
Corpus Christi, Texas 30% 29,415 8% 13,193
Vancouver, Washington 29% 18,796 12% 9,026
Sandy Springs, Georgia 29% 12,069 14% 6,124
Salinas, California 29% 19,848 -7% -4,732
Santa Clara, California 28% 14,592 12% 5,910
Columbia, Maryland 28% 7,111 14% 8,406
Memphis, Tennessee 28% 72,866 -18% -66,664
Spokane, Washington 28% 19,299 -3% -3,621
Sacramento, California 27% 52,808 15% 30,461
Everett, Washington 27% 12,022 11% 4,858
Brownsville, Texas 27% 13,833 32% 28,267
Rockford, Illinois 27% 13,335 -15% -13,997
Chattanooga, Tennessee 27% 16,313 2% 1,531
St. Petersburg, Florida 26% 21,243 -8% -12,533
El Paso, Texas 26% 52,137 16% 59,575
Portland, Oregon 26% 53,936 15% 45,904
Modesto, California 26% 19,710 1% 1,378
Madison, Wisconsin 26% 23,712 18% 18,631
Amarillo, Texas 26% 14,630 9% 9,956
San Jose, California 26% 84,962 7% 40,160
Wichita, Kansas 25% 28,333 7% 16,013
Irving, Texas 25% 27,191 21% 16,723
San Buenaventura, California 25% 9,862 -1% -384
Minneapolis, Minnesota 25% 39,273 -5% -10,212
Garland, Texas 24% 17,105 2% 3,165
Fullerton, California 24% 12,996 0% 46
Escondido, California 24% 14,789 3% 1,924
Tucson, Arizona 24% 46,722 -3% -8,758
Evansville, Indiana 23% 9,611 -15% -11,096
San Diego, California 23% 132,848 7% 44,300
Montgomery, Alabama 23% 15,802 -11% -13,035
Abilene, Texas 23% 9,106 -7% -4,743
Lansing, Michigan 23% 10,479 -20% -14,275
Topeka, Kansas 22% 9,048 -6% -4,309
Stamford, Connecticut 22% 10,437 3% 1,942
Kansas City, Kansas 22% 11,543 -8% -7,170
Kansas City, Missouri 22% 35,410 0% 340
Houston, Texas 22% 214,149 10% 97,865
Sunnyvale, California 22% 13,896 9% 5,756
Clearwater, Florida 22% 8,441 -3% -1,849
Grand Rapids, Michigan 21% 14,614 -13% -14,962
Savannah, Georgia 21% 12,688 -7% -4,713
Augusta-Richmond County, Georgia 21% 15,278 -11% -12,332
Arlington, Texas 20% 26,904 14% 27,005
Richmond, California 20% 9,124 1% 297
Akron, Ohio 20% 15,789 -26% -34,951
Alexandria, Virginia 20% 14,757 24% 12,077
Orange, California 20% 9,702 0% 307
Tacoma, Washington 19% 14,698 0% -44
Anchorage, Alaska 19% 17,451 12% 19,458
Hayward, California 19% 11,567 6% 4,423
Hialeah, Florida 19% 18,808 -5% -6,178
Salt Lake City, Utah 19% 14,119 -2% -2,358
Washington, DC 18% 54,896 17% 41,180
Ontario, California 18% 12,009 2% 2,087
Daly City, California 18% 6,672 -6% -3,802
Pomona, California 18% 10,627 -9% -7,877
Tulsa, Oklahoma 17% 27,588 -7% -15,678
Elizabeth, New Jersey 17% 13,223 -9% -3,621
El Cajon, California 17% 9,270 -3% -1,011
Garden Grove, California 17% 11,387 -2% -2,130
Berkeley, California 17% 8,247 5% 2,233
Springfield, Illinois 16% 5,718 -4% -2,622
Virginia Beach, Virginia 16% 21,756 0% 68
Shreveport, Louisiana 16% 12,453 -14% -16,284
Little Rock, Arkansas 16% 11,201 4% 4,459
Concord, California 16% 7,505 -1% -1,016
Arlington, Virginia 16% 16,141 29% 24,974
Lakewood, Colorado 16% 7,963 1% 776
Pasadena, Texas 16% 9,242 4% 2,996
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 16% 14,615 -9% -10,949
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 16% 4,637 6% 5,280
Waco, Texas 16% 8,280 19% 9,856
San Mateo, California 15% 5,874 10% 4,945
Torrance, California 15% 8,109 1% 990
Waterbury, Connecticut 15% 7,488 -10% -5,291
Beaumont, Texas 14% 5,910 -3% -2,256
Jersey City, New Jersey 14% 22,366 5% 4,150
Peoria, Illinois 14% 5,699 -3% -1,719
Huntington Beach, California 13% 9,772 0% 491
Toledo, Ohio 13% 14,946 -26% -49,685
Manchester, New Hampshire 13% 6,580 -6% -3,190
Anaheim, California 13% 21,774 -1% -1,096
Jackson, Mississippi 13% 9,156 -21% -22,355
Columbia, South Carolina 13% 6,123 9% 3,915
Dallas, Texas 12% 75,467 7% 39,736
Springfield, Massachusetts 12% 8,683 -8% -6,014
Downey, California 12% 5,633 3% 1,479
Norwalk, California 11% 3,841 -2% -1,538
Metairie, Louisiana 11% 5,337 -6% -6,184
Atlanta, Georgia 11% 23,359 12% 21,768
Boston, Massachusetts 11% 37,385 15% 29,830
Ann Arbor, Michigan 10% 5,235 2% 964
Norfolk, Virginia 10% 11,129 -2% -2,347
Oakland, California 10% 21,408 -2% -3,094
Pasadena, California 9% 6,455 1% 591
New Haven, Connecticut 9% 7,208 3% 1,144
Newport News, Virginia 9% 7,077 -10% -9,332
Burbank, California 9% 4,716 0% 103
West Covina, California 9% 3,069 0% -237
Provo, Utah 9% 4,806 7% 2,940
San Francisco, California 9% 39,150 15% 47,814
Glendale, California 9% 10,086 -5% -4,135
Los Angeles, California 9% 184,473 5% 68,191
Santa Ana, California 8% 13,886 -10% -15,772
Bridgeport, Connecticut 8% 5,882 2% 957
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 8% 23,452 -8% -21,939
Worcester, Massachusetts 7% 6,475 5% 3,704
Baltimore, Maryland 7% 20,682 -15% -50,606
Paterson, New Jersey 7% 6,857 -13% -6,689
Birmingham, Alabama 7% 6,702 -28% -37,463
Rochester, New York 7% 7,704 -20% -18,220
Newark, New Jersey 7% 12,133 -4% -3,208
Lowell, Massachusetts 7% 3,545 3% 1,278
Providence, Rhode Island 7% 6,329 -1% -909
Mobile, Alabama 6% 4,404 -11% -13,250
New York, New York 6% 283,643 10% 273,782
Costa Mesa, California 5% 3,095 6% 2,419
East Los Angeles, California 3% 2,671 -6% -2,977
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 3% 4,275 -19% -34,914
Long Beach, California 3% 8,347 1% 2,217
Syracuse, New York 3% 1,999 -14% -8,337
Green Bay, Wisconsin 2% 694 1% 859
Hampton, Virginia 1% 620 -4% -2,839
Inglewood, California 1% 491 -6% -2,495
Hartford, Connecticut 0% 386 0% -7
Buffalo, New York -1% -1,312 -22% -29,684
St. Louis, Missouri -2% -4,043 -17% -29,185
Chicago, Illinois -3% -44,201 -9% -128,668
Yonkers, New York -3% -3,679 9% 8,067
Cincinnati, Ohio -4% -7,625 -17% -23,677
Cleveland, Ohio -5% -10,442 -32% -78,550
Dayton, Ohio -7% -4,598 -26% -22,299
El Monte, California -8% -5,473 12% 5,192
Detroit, Michigan -17% -68,222 -37% -196,592
New Orleans, Louisiana -22% -51,640 -18% -40,679

NOTE: Data shown for jurisdictions with populations over 100,000.
SOURCE: 2017 5-year ACS, 2000 Census

View additional renting data for all cities.