The Corner


A Modern Exodus: Renters Leave Portland for the Suburbs in Droves

Federal law-enforcement officers face off with rioters in Portland, Ore., July 30, 2020. (Caitlin Ochs/Reuters)

Last week, the Wall Street Journal published a piece titled “Rising Rents Are Hitting American Suburbs Hardest,” outlining the wave of renters who have left the city for the suburbs over the past few years. This general exodus (which is ongoing) has notably increased the price of suburban rentals. The numbers are revealing:

Rents in suburbs had climbed 26% through this past July since March 2020, 8 percentage points higher than the gain in urban cores, according to a report from rentals website Apartment List. Suburban rent growth was greater than its urban counterpart in 28 of the 33 metro areas studied, the company said.

While the shift to remote work during the pandemic drove many white-collar workers out of their shoebox apartments and into McMansions with a home office, the continued rise in suburban rents demonstrates that Zoom is not the only social force at work. Rather, the “high mortgage rates and home prices” that prohibit the purchase of a home, coupled with the “rise in crime and homelessness in several big cities,” are convincing more city dwellers to rent in the ’burbs.

Portland, Ore., was found to be superlative in this regard. The widest rent-increase gap (between urban and suburban locales) across U.S. cities lies in the City of Roses: “Rents in Portland’s suburbs are up 23% since 2020, compared with about 2% in the center city.” In sum, we have undeniable evidence that a mass movement of once-cosmopolitan renters have fled Portland’s urban core for cul-de-sacs and lawn mowers. My esteemed colleagues can tell you why (hint: crime and anarchy).

In a great twist of fate, Portland, one of the greenest cities in America, is sending droves of its own citizens to the infamously unsustainable land of Suburbia. The City of Portland may indeed emit less CO2 this year — meanwhile, former Portlanders are happily driving their SUVs on well-paved roads outside of the city limits. I will leave the emissions cross-analysis to a statistician.

Kayla Bartsch is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism. She is a recent graduate of Yale College and a former teaching assistant for Hudson Institute Political Studies.
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