DC area is near the top for Gen-Z renters

The share of apartment rental applications from Generation Z adults rose across the United States last year. But some areas, including the D.C. metro, saw bigger increases than others.

RentCafe reports a 55% increase in so-called Zoomers (born between 1996 and 2010) moving into new apartments in Arlington, Virginia, last year — the sixth-biggest jump in the nation.

About 26% of current renters in Arlington are age 25 or younger.

Alexandria ranks 13th, with a 37% increase in the youngest renters. Gen Z renters now make up 19% of all renters in Alexandria.

“When you look at our report and combine Alexandria with Arlington, it would be No. 2,” said Doug Ressler, with RentCafe. “The D.C. area has a wide diversity, so we see it as being very lucrative for both developers, as well as catering to a younger population.”

In the District, there was a 31% increase in the share of Gen Z renters last year. More than a quarter of renters living in D.C. are 25 and younger.

The cities and suburbs with the biggest changes in Gen Z renters are mostly major metropolitan areas. RentCafe notes big cities offer amenities not available in smaller cities or rural areas. There are also more opportunities for social and professional networking —  all things the most young adults are looking for.

RentCafe says their data shows Gen Z was the only generation to record an increase in renting activity last year. That means they are playing a big role in an urban revival.

The D.C. metro has some of the highest rents in the country, particularly in Arlington and Alexandria. Some Gen-Zers are coming out of college with jobs that already pay them well. As has always been the case with younger workers, Gen-Z is also more willing to share expenses with friends and roommates.

But while D.C. area rents are high overall, the D.C. metro also ranks No. 2 in the nation for office building conversions, repurposing older office buildings as more affordable housing.

“That gives you a leg up in terms of cost model, and to be able to offer things below market rate,” Ressler said.

RentCafe recently analyzed 3.2 million rental applications submitted in 2021 for its “Trendiest Zoomer hot spots” report. In that report, San Francisco topped the list for increase in young renters — more than double its share in 2020.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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