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Pandemic Life in a City

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While coronavirus pandemic restrictions, quarantine and public health protocols likely impacted every U.S. resident in some form, city dwellers might have a different experience than their rural counterparts.

A recent survey from the rental search platform ApartmentAdvisor looks into this amid the continuing rise of the delta variant and another surge of cases.

The Concord, Mass.-based company finds that 31% of urban renters express feeling at least somewhat less satisfied with living in their cities since the start of the crisis, versus 18% who report being at least somewhat satisfied.

Life in the city: Getting back to normal

Despite some cities reinstating COVID-19 safety mandates, most respondents say they feel at least somewhat comfortable doing various activities. Here’s a closer look:

Comfort levels among city renters
Very comfortable Somewhat comfortable Not comfortable
Attending a play in an indoor theater 34% 39% 26%
Using public transit 34% 35% 31%
Using a ride-hailing service 36% 38% 26%
Attending a game or concert at an indoor stadium 36% 38% 26%
Attending a movie at a theater 40% 38% 23%
Gathering at a bar and/or restaurant 40% 41% 19%
Visiting a museum 44% 42% 15%
Working on-site at your place of employment 50% 36% 14%
Shopping in a store 53% 39% 8%

When might life go back to “normal?” Among respondents:

  • 36% feel city life will return by the end of 2021
  • 30% say it’ll take six months and two years
  • 11% believe it’ll take many years

So why are renters still enjoying life in the city despite pandemic-related changes? It turns out the things that brought joie de vivre before the pandemic remain the same: affordability, being close to friends and family and job opportunities.

Should I stay or should I go?

Among respondents, 76% have stayed put since the onset of the crisis, while 12% moved within their city. Another 6% temporarily left their city but expect to return and 4% moved to a new city.

(Note: The survey results only included current city dwellers, so it didn’t include former urban renters who moved to either the suburbs or rural areas amid the pandemic).

For those considering moving but who haven’t acted on it yet, 40% say they’re more likely to reconsider relocating outside of their city because of the pandemic. Breaking it down further, 20% say they would move to a city smaller than their current city, 10% would like to uproot to a larger city, 6% want to move to the suburbs and 4% want to relocate to rural parts.

Relocating for different reasons

The top reason for mulling the possibility of moving is to be closer to friends and family (25%). Other reasons include a change in employment (19%), looking for a more affordable area to live (17%) and wanting to buy instead of rent (12%).

Small-city dwellers (populations of less than 500,000) are more inclined than large-city dwellers (populations of greater than 500,000) to reconsider leaving — 62% versus 57%.

Slicing it by age, younger renters are far more likely than older renters to say the COVID-19 crisis prompted them to reconsider relocating.

The need for more space

While being cooped up indoors, a majority of renters would like more space — both inside and outside their dwellings. The top three features or amenities renters would like if it didn’t change their rent are:

  • More space (i.e., another bedroom, more square footage)
  • Access to a private outdoor space
  • Access to a common space (i.e., lounge, pool)

Urban renters considering upgrading and becoming a homeowner can start the process by looking for a home loan.

These potential homeowners can use a mortgage calculator to see how much their monthly payments might be. They can also seek preapproval for a mortgage.

Methodology: ApartmentAdvisor surveyed 1,025 urban renters in the U.S., fielded between June 27 and July 1, 2021. Of the respondents, 53% report being large-city dwellers (population greater than 500,000), while the remaining 47% report being small-city dwellers (population less than 500,000).


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