Suburbs for rent: Homeowners are now in minority in these DC ‘burbs

As buying a home has gotten more difficult, several D.C.-area suburbs have gone from majority-homeowner to majority-renter, according to a study by apartment search website RENTCafé.

Many of the areas where it’s happened are in Fairfax and Prince George’s counties.

The study, using census data, found that Merrifield, Virginia, had 44% renters in 2010, compared to 64% in 2019, while East Riverdale, Maryland, went from 38% renters to 56%.

Also flipping to majority-renter, but in a less pronounced way: Idylwood, Huntington, Hybla Valley, Lincolnia and Fair Oaks in Virginia, and Hyattsville, Hillcrest Heights, Summerfield, College Park, Laurel, Greenbelt and Fairland in Maryland.

“Millennials are renting longer,” said Doug Ressler, with RENTCafé’s sister division Yardi Matrix. “Many of the late-blooming millennials should be buying now, but because of the lack of housing stock to purchase they may not be able to do that, so they continue to rent.”

Additionally, millennials are renting farther out.

“They’re starting to grow families, they want larger places, they want to have a little bit more green space,” Ressler said.

Nationwide, the D.C. area is one of the top three metro areas leading this trend. The other two are Miami and Los Angeles.

According to U.S. Census data, most of the renters in majority-renter areas are Millennials and members of Generation Z looking for housing options that better suit their budgets, as 55% of suburban renters are younger than 45 with median household earnings around $50,000, according to RENTCafé.

Merrifield, Virginia, which was an owner-majority suburb 10 years ago, has changed much in the past decade. Its renter population increased by 87% and a household income of $98,000 for suburban renters — nearly twice the national median income of suburban renters.

RENTCafé forecasts the D.C. region will continue to experience the trend, as the Maryland communities of Gaithersburg, North Bethesda, Elkton and Middle River, along with Groveton in Virginia, are all expected to switch to renter-majority ones in the next five years.

John Aaron

John Aaron is a news anchor and reporter for WTOP. After starting his professional broadcast career as an anchor and reporter for WGET and WGTY in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, he went on to spend several years in the world of sports media, working for Comcast SportsNet, MLB Network Radio, and WTOP.

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