Tracking Changes in the Geography of Renting: 2008 to 2014

According to the latest 2014 American Community Survey (ACS), rentership rates were highest in counties of the Northeast, where large metropolitan areas, such as New York City and Boston, are clustered. In 2014, the highest rentership rate was in Bronx County, NY, where approximately 82% households rent, followed by 77% in New York County, NY, and 72% in Kings County, NY.  Other counties with more than 60% renter-occupied homes are Hudson County, NJ, (71%), Clarke County, GA (67%), Suffolk County, MA (64%) and San Francisco County, CA (62%).

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Rentership rates are generally highest in the central cities of metropolitan areas where land is expensive. Over the short run, renting represents a less significant financial commitment than home ownership. This is particularly true given the need for first-time buyers to accumulate a downpayment for a home purchase.

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It is also worthwhile to closely examine rentership rate changes since 2008, the onset of the Great Recession. Rentership rate changes range from -60%, implying a large increase in the homeownership rate represented by color green in the map above, in Sumter Country, FL, to a 54% in renting in Scott County, MN, where the homeownership rate was still above 80%, but dipped from 88% in 2008 to 82% in 2014.

County level tenure data for 2008 and 2014 from the ACS and NAHB analysis indicates that counties with the largest increases in annual rentership rates were Scott County, MN (54%), Calvert County, MD (51%), Greene County, TN (48%), Island County, WA (45%), Terrebonne Parish, LA (43%), McHenry County, IL (41%), Dorchester County, SC (40%), Marquette County, MI (39%), Escambia County, FL (39%), and Rockdale County, GA (39%) .

Renting became more prevalent in areas where the rentership rates were lower before the Great Recession. As a result, South Atlantic, Mountain, East North Central, East South Central, West North Central and East North Central had relatively larger increases in rentership rates, ranging from 10% to 14% increase.

Adults under age 35 are most likely to choose renting, because of flexibility and the need to save a downpayment to buy a home. A workable correlation is found, as shown on the graph below, between the percentage of adults under 35 and rentership rates, according to data from 2008 and 2014 ACS. Counties with larger increases in the share of adults aged between 20 and 35 were more likely to experience a higher increase in rentership rates.

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