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Report Shows the 5 US Cities That Renters Never Leave

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Learn the five US cities with the highest number of long-term renters and the reasons why many choose to stay in their current rental arrangements instead of buying a home.


The running streak of 124 straight months of rising American home prices has ended, with the past several months showing a steady decline. But, with rent across the country remaining at an all-time high, a new question arises: What does the current housing climate mean for renters?


A new report from financial firm IPX 1031 sheds some light on the situation. While most renters in the survey would like to own someday, the data also reveals where the largest number of renters refuse to let go of their leases.

Top Cities for Long-Term Renters

In seeking to understand the current American housing climate, there’s more to the picture than who’s buying and who’s renting. For instance, the spread of transients vs. long-term renters in an area may provide insight into affordability and overall resident satisfaction.


The IPX 1031 report highlights, along with numerous insights, which cities have the most long-term renters. The report defines long-term renters as those who moved into their current unit at least 22 years ago. The top five include some of the usual suspects but also paint an enlightening picture of the status quo in American renting.

1. New York

Any analysis of American cities with the most people doing anything will likely feature New York, the country’s most populous city. New York outpaces its competition in the rent-and-hold market by a city mile. With more than 415,000 long-term renters, NYC outnumbers those of the next-highest American city by a factor of 5.


However, huddled masses aside, it should be no surprise that NYC is the country’s largest hub for long-term renters. The brute-force effect of a large population is far from the only reason the city retains so many renters keeping their leases for multiple decades.


New York, and Manhattan in particular, consistently ranks as one of the most expensive places to live in the US, making homeownership a non-reality for many of its loyal residents.


In addition to population density and the considerable cost of living in NYC, rent control is a likely factor in why many of the city’s residents keep their leases. Staying in a rent-stabilized unit for an extended period is one of the few ways to hedge the ever-rising cost of renting in the economic metropolis.

2. Los Angeles

Los Angeles, the second-most populous US city, once again rivals its cousin, New York. More than 82,000 people have had an LA apartment to call home for over 22 years.


Like New York, Lost Angeles is an economic and cultural magnet, constantly attracting new residents both from within the country and abroad. The potential for life-changing work opportunities and endless entertainment, nightlife, and novelty bring a steady stream of dreamers and transplants to Los Angeles, continually driving up the cost of living.


As a result, housing is sparse and prohibitively expensive for many of the city’s long-term residents. However, the cost of living does not deter many people from remaining in the area, with many of the city’s population staying in their apartments and condos for the long term.

3. Chicago

Chicago is arguably the largest American financial hub outside of New York, and the city reflects that in many ways. From its dense urban center to its highly-developed skyline, the capital of Illinois is a bustling and exciting place, though not necessarily affordable.


Like every other city on the list, Chicago is a place that many choose to stay for much of their lives, but not nearly as many manage to purchase a home.


Additionally, despite ongoing gentrification in recent years, Chicago’s South Side remains an area where many families live and stay for decades, possibly contributing to the city’s population of 32,000 long-term renters.

4. San Francisco

San Francisco is the only city to make the top five for long-term renters that is not one of the ten most populated cities in the country. While total population tilts the scales in places like New York and LA, that does not appear to be the main factor in San Francisco. 


The city houses 25,000 long-term renters, more than twice as many as more populous cities like Houston or Phoenix.


Habitable land is likely one of the main factors in the discrepancy. San Francisco has less total land area than most other cities of its class. Compared to the examples above, San Francisco has less than 10% of the total land area of either Houston or Phoenix.


More land leads to more sprawl and the more affordable suburban housing that accompanies it. A comparatively denser city like San Francisco will generally result in denser housing, such as apartment buildings and complexes. A city with a high cost of living, limited space for housing, and lasting appeal to residents is bound to keep plenty of people renting for the long term. 


5. Philadelphia

Philadelphia mirrors many of the factors driving up the long-term renter population in similar east coast cities. It is a densely packed population hub where many come seeking employment opportunities and a great place to live, but few can successfully find the right time to buy.


Fourteen thousand renters in Philadelphia have been in their current units since at least the turn of the millennium. Many, if not most, of these renters would likely love to buy a home in the city of brotherly love one day. But, in the meantime, many at least seem content to stay in their current arrangements and avoid calling a moving truck just yet.

Why Do They Stay?

There are many reasons people choose to rent, rather than own, their home, most of which are money. However, with homeownership remaining a daunting financial hurdle for many households, renting continues to be a similarly vexing struggle.


In most cases, renting is not the first choice; it is the available choice. The IPX 1031 report shows that 71% of American renters want to own a home. Of those, at least 90% cited money or related financial factors as primary reasons they continue renting.


Buying property is no small feat in many American cities, especially as rent and other living costs continue to rise. Yet even for those wishing to buy, it speaks to the enduring appeal of these places to see how many continue to hold onto their leases year after year.




Sam is the creator of the personal development blog Smarter and Harder. His mission is to start exciting new conversations that empower people to improve their work, lives, and money, and have fun doing it. In all things, he strives to lead with positivity, understanding, and more than a bit of enthusiasm.