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Urban Renters See Pre-Pandemic Normalcy Returning

Roughly a year and a half after the onset of the pandemic, urban renters—who often bore the brunt of lockdown mandates—are finding that pre-pandemic levels of activity are resuming. Opinions vary, though, on how long it’ll take for daily life to get back to normal.

That’s among the topline conclusions of a survey conducted recently among 1,025 urban renters for ApartmentAdvisor. Another is that in terms of the levels of satisfaction renters have with living in their cities, the pandemic wasn’t quite as disruptive as might be expected.  

Among the urban renters surveyed, one third (31%) reported feeling much less or somewhat less satisfied with living in their city compared to before the pandemic, while 18% said they are now somewhat or very satisfied. Half (51%) of respondents reported their level of satisfaction with living in their city hasn’t changed at all from pre-pandemic levels. 

Notably, large city dwellers are less likely to be satisfied with living in their city than small city dwellers, says ApartmentAdvisor. Renters whose employers have established remote work plans are also less likely to be satisfied with living in their city now, compared to renters whose employers have established hybrid or on premises work policies.

Even as the pandemic persists—and, in some cities, rebounds—many respondents indicated they are re-engaging in a wide variety of “normal” public city activities that had been restricted during much of the pandemic. These include gathering indoors at bars or restaurants (81% said they’re somewhat or very comfortable doing this), attending indoor movie theaters (78%), visiting museums (86%), using public transportation (69%), attending a sports game or concert at an indoor stadium (74%), and using ride-share services like Uber and Lyft (74%). Eighty-six percent of the urban renters surveyed said they’re somewhat or very comfortable working on premises at their place of employment.

Predictions varied on how long it will take for a full comeback in their city. More than a third (36%) of respondents said they believe their city will be back to pre-pandemic levels of activity by Dec. 31, and 9% said their city is already back. Another 30% of respondents predict it will take up to two years. 

Others are less optimistic. Eleven percent think a return to normalcy will take many years and 9% predict their cities will never get back to pre-pandemic levels of activity. Conversely, 4% said they didn’t think the pandemic impacted city living at all.

The survey also revealed the extent to which the pandemic has caused city renters to reconsider where they live. While many respondents (60%) indicated the pandemic didn’t cause them to rethink their current city location at all, 40% responded that the pandemic did in fact cause them to reassess living in their current city. 

Notably, renters in small cities (i.e. those with populations of less than 500,000) aren’t as likely to reconsider their current location compared to renters in large cities. Older renters are also not as likely to consider a move.

Even with some people pondering a new location, though, the survey found that for most urban renters, the priorities that attracted them to their cities prior to the pandemic remain the factors that they value most. These include affordability of their desired rental property, proximity to their place of work, employment opportunities, and proximity to friends and family.

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About Paul Bubny

Paul Bubny serves as Senior Content Director for Connect Commercial Real Estate, a role to which he brings 13-plus years’ experience covering the commercial real estate industry and 30-plus years in business-to-business journalism. In this capacity, he oversees daily operations while also reporting on both local/regional markets and national trends, covering individual transactions across all property types, as well as delving into broader subject matter. He produces 15-20 daily news stories per day and works with the Connect team and clients to develop longer-form content, ranging from Q&As to thought-leadership pieces. Prior to joining Connect, Paul was Managing Editor for both Real Estate Forum and GlobeSt.com at American Lawyer Media, where he oversaw operations at both publications while also producing daily news and feature-length articles. His tenure in B2B publishing stretches back into the print era, and he has served as Editor in Chief on four national trade publications. Since 1999, Paul has volunteered as the newsletter editor of passenger rail advocacy groups (one national, one local).

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