Squint, boomer, and you'll see Gen Z.

In 2020Gen made its presence known in rental markets across the U.S. A RentCafe study analyzing over three million rental applications in more than 40,000 apartment communities nationwide found a 36 percent jump in the share of Gen renters in 2020 compared to 2019Meanwhile, every other generation’s slice of the renter pie dropped (not unusual, as people often trade leases for mortgages as they get older).

Although no city in Washington came close to Greenville, North Carolinawhich experienced an 84 percent climb in the share of rental applications from people born after 1997, the most in the countryTacoma saw a 40 percent spike from Gen Z. That was the greatest increase in Washington. 

Other cities, including Spokane Valley, could still tout a higher percentage of Gen Z renters overall than Tacomabut the City of Destiny’s jump from Gen Z making up 20 percent of all renters to 28 percent was more significant than any other’s in Washington last yearIts share of zoomer applicantwas also much higher than Seattle’s (which was 17%). 

Why is that? Jill Ann Harrison, an associate professor in the sociology department at the University of Oregon, says young people can start small businesses and pursue other ventures in more affordable economic hubsIn places like Seattle, L.A., or Boston, it takes a lot more money and access to capital to take these kinds of risks,” notes Harrison. “These smaller markets offer an opportunity for younger adults not just [to] live in a place, but to help to create or contribute to it in meaningful ways. 

Tacoma rent prices are still lower than Seattle’s, even after the Emerald City’s plummeted during 2020. And Seattle’s rental market has already started to become more expensive again. So maybe "Tech-oma" will be even more appealing to Gen Z in 2021.

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