Baby boomers set the housing market on fire when they came of age, but times have changed. Now, they are flocking in droves to an easier lifestyle than one of homeownership. RentCafé looked at Census figures to come up with a snapshot of the renting world. It found that people 55 years of age and older accounted for a huge increase in the renting population.

There was once a stigma associated to renting. Back when the Boomers were first booming, apartments were typically thought of as dingy, undesirable places to live. Younger folks lived in apartments until they could afford to buy their own homes, along with folks who were underemployed or were somehow at odds with society. But new trends in apartment living have changed those perceptions.

Newer apartment complexes are being developed with social connectedness and amenities in mind. When you rent an apartment in today’s world, you often get exercise facilities, a pool, walking paths, common areas, and a community of people who might suddenly feel like extended family. But those changes don’t tell the whole story.

RentCafé wanted to see how the renter profile has changed, it looked at Census data from 2009 to 2015. That’s about the time we started seeing a huge upswing in renters, mostly because of the housing market collapse. But the analysis helped determine what segment of the population was contributing to this shift. And, it found there were three big ways that the U.S. renter profile has changed.

U.S. Renter Profile

The statistics show big increases in the age, education level, and family status of the typical renter. Renters older than 55 years of age increased 28 percent during that six-year time span while renters 34 years and younger only increased 3 percent. The increase in renting among people 35 to 54 years old was 14 percent. When it comes to education, renters with a bachelor’s degree were up 23 percent, and those with no minor children rose by 21 percent.

These statistics tell us that a huge number of new renters are “empty-nest Baby Boomers.” It’s not clear whether they are being driven to apartment living because of the downturn, or the inability to trade their bigger homes for smaller affordable homes, or a desire to live a simpler lifestyle. But, it is clear that the surge in renting among Boomers is much bigger than the one among Millennials.

RentCafé says the increase isn’t just by percentage but also by the numbers. About 2.5 million seniors traded homeownership for apartments during those six years. That’s compared to 1.95 million for the 35 to 54-year-old group, and 500,000 for the 34 and younger group.

Older renters also accounted for the biggest increase in both suburban and urban renters, but the data shows a much higher increase for the suburbs. The city outskirts saw a 39 percent rise in older renters, while urban areas had a 21 percent increase.

RentCafé says the numbers make sense because many Boomers have lived most of their lives in the suburbs, and may want to remain there. But RentCafé says they also want to downsize, and, in the process of doing that, they may be looking for a different lifestyle with fewer home maintenance obligations and lower monthly expenses.

Metros Attracting the Most Boomers

RentCafé’s analysis covered 20 U.S. metros and found that in all those cities, the increase in older renters was much greater than the younger ones. However, some metros have grown faster than others.

The area with the biggest increase in senior renters is Riverside, California. The number of older renters rose 63 percent in that metro. Tampa, Florida was next with a 61 percent increase and Phoenix, Arizona followed in third place with a 59 percent rise in older renters.

RentCafé says the largest “net” increase was in Los Angeles. During the period analyzed, L.A. gained 134,000 older renters and lost 26,000 of the youngest ones. New York City also had similar gains and losses.

When it comes to educational levels, the largest share of new renters had at least a bachelor’s degree. Those numbers were up 26 percent for the suburbs, and 20 percent for the cities. The two metros that attracted the most educated renters were Phoenix and Denver, followed by Tampa and Atlanta.

There was also a big jump in the number of families without children living in the suburbs. Those families were either singles or couples with no children in the household. Seattle was the most popular metro for families “without” children, while suburban Washington, D.C., attracted more renters “with” children.

The Lure of the Suburbs

The migration of renters to the suburbs isn’t surprising. Suburban living has changed from the idea of sleepy bedroom communities to thriving centers of activity. They provide what RentCafé calls the “suburban downtown,” and for many, a “transit-oriented” lifestyle. Renters are often within walking distance of shops, restaurants, parks, entertainment, and public transit. As RentCafé points out, it’s a lot easier to be a renter in the suburbs today, with a lot more benefits.

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