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Remote Workers Relocating to Cheaper Cities, Pushing Out Some Locals

The coronavirus pandemic solidified the idea people don’t have to show up at an office to get work done.

Remote Workers Relocating to Cheaper Cities, Pushing Out Some Locals

That fresh reality has led to a growing number of people relocating to more affordable cities across the country. But while the development is beneficial to remote — or so-called Zoom — workers, it is leading to rent increases in areas where newcomers are settling in. And in some cases forcing low-income residents to leave the neighborhood.

The Business Insider article cited a Wall Street Journal analysis of census data that revealed in 2018 alone, cities with a population of more than half a million people lost nearly 27,000 residents between 25 and 39. Business Insider reported on how the scenario is unfolding, including how during the coronavirus pandemic many younger adults opted to move back to their hometown while others relocated to the suburbs: Across economic hubs, the pandemic’s abrupt imposition of work-from-home policies led to an uptick in apartment claustrophobia as many people found themselves spending the bulk of their time in the confines of small and pricey homes.

The big-city perks that would otherwise compensate for such quality-of-life tradeoffs — access to culture and nightlife, proximity to other human beings — were suddenly out of reach. For those who kept their jobs, one urban amenity remained intact: the big-city paycheck. Newly untethered from their pricey geographic anchors, some remote workers set their sights on greener, cheaper pastures. In a March survey of nearly 18,000 U.S. adults conducted exclusively for this story by the market-insights firm Branded Research, 11.6% of respondents reported having moved to a new city during the pandemic. Last November, a separate Branded survey of nearly 24,000 adults found that 35% of Americans had seriously considered moving to a new city within the past year. In both surveys, adults younger than 45 were much more likely than older respondents to say they were either considering a move or had recently made the leap. Real-estate professionals in Southern California, South Florida, and New York City told me that more and more of their clients are setting their sights on farther moves. Moving-company data suggests it’s a trend. A recent survey by the long-distance moving platform MoveBuddha points to a pronounced shift in favor of long-distance moves relative to local ones, culminating in a “moving apocalypse” in summer 2021. In the company’s survey of 63 long-distance moving companies, nearly half said they were booked up at least three weeks further in advance last summer than they had been in years prior. Census Bureau data from 2021 suggests that remote work has indeed sent a cascade of people from big cities to the suburbs and smaller metros. “Not only are locals being kept out of homebuying, but it’s accelerating displacement from these communities,” Anthony Martin, the founder and CEO of Choice Mutual, an insurance brokerage in Reno, Nevada, said in the Business Insider report. “This means they’re either leaving the city altogether in pursuit of more affordable housing, renting longer than planned, or are kicked out and become homeless.” Follow Penny Starr on Twitter.

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