Houston Saw an Influx of Renters Last Year. Here’s What We Know about Them

Houston skyline at sunset.

Yes, Houston’s real estate market is on fire these days. But where do renters fall on the heat index?

According to a new study by StorageCafe that looked at 1.7 million renters in the U.S., the rental market in the Bayou City is also ablaze. Nationally, the pandemic-induced “urban exodus” we keep hearing about did not impact renters, with 68 percent moving into cities (Houston included), which is consistent with pre-2020 numbers.

“People are still driven primarily by employment prospects, and big urban hubs are where the jobs are. Add the increasing preference for walkability and shorter commutes and we might be witnessing a revival of our urban cores,” Doug Ressler, business intelligence manager at Yardi Matrix, STORAGECafé’s sister division, said in a statement.

Houston saw the fifth-highest influx of renters in 2020 compared to other large cities in the country—the only Texas city to crack the top five, though Dallas and Austin weren’t far behind in spots seven and 11, respectively. And a higher number of rent applications rolled into Houston every month in 2020 compared to the same month the year prior—pandemic be damned.

Most of these new renters came from within Texas, about 69 percent to be exact, with most coming from area suburbs. About 8 percent of incoming renters hailed from Katy, 6 percent came from Spring, and 3 percent from Sugar Land. Are you surprised?

Still, overall, slightly more incoming residents came to Houston by way of other urban cities than from the suburbs: about 54 percent to 46 percent, respectively. Most were looking in the Mid-West, Eldridge, and Uptown neighborhoods, according to the report.

New York City—which fell second to Los Angeles as the top city attracting renters last year—was the top out-of-state city for renters to leave when relocating to the Bayou City. Interestingly, it was the top overall originating spot for other high-influx cities like Los Angels and Philadelphia, too.

Our Cajun compadres from New Orleans and frigid friends seeking some Southern sun from Chicago were the second- and third-most popular out-of-staters to relocate to Houston.

The typical relocated renter in Houston last year was a millennial with an income of between income between $30,000 and $65,000—chances are you probably know a few. Still, 40 percent more GenZ renters moved to Houston in 2020 than in the year prior—upping our city’s hip status one middle part at a time.

The economy in Houston was likely an attraction, the report concluded. “Unemployment in Houston dropped by almost half between April 2020 and the end of last year,” it read, “from over 14 percent in April 2020 to under 8 percent in December, signaling a recovery of the local economy that’s bound to keep attracting out-of-towners.”

As were the Texas-sized apartments. According to the report, more than half of the new renters upgraded their digs when moving here—roughly 52 percent reported that they applied for a more spacious home or apartment than their last place of residence. Of the cities on the report, Houston was home to the 11th largest average apartment size, coming in at a whopping 880 square feet.

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