- As an influx of city residents reportedly migrate to more affordable suburban communities amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Zillow and Yelp have released a "Cityness Index" of the top 10 U.S. suburbs that still "feel like big cities."
- The top 10 communities are Waterbury, CT; Lowell, MA; Joliet, IL; Sunrise, FL; Pasadena, TX; Lancaster, CA; Hampton, VA; Marietta, GA; Norman, OK; and Tempe, AZ.
- The index uses data from Zillow and Yelp to pinpoint lesser-known communities close to major metropolitan hubs. The ranking, which evaluates hundreds of suburbs in each of the 50 largest metros, factors metrics like housing affordability and availability, the diversity and mix of business types, and consumer check-ins and reviews.
The current migration from big cities to suburbs, or "the Great Reshuffling," is real, according to Yelp and Zillow data. Yelp found the number of requested moving company quotes has increased 34% in San Francisco, 22% in New York and 6% in Los Angeles. And almost two-thirds of those surveyed in a recent Zillow poll also said they would consider moving if they had the option to work remote as often as they needed.
"The pandemic may have accelerated the decision to move for some," Zillow Senior Economist Cheryl Young said in an email interview. "Those planning to move in the next year or two may have simply done so more immediately as homes also became places of work and stand-ins for classrooms. The need for space without the premium of living close to the center of the city became a priority."
A majority of tech workers in a June Hired survey, for instance, said they would be likely or very likely to move to a more affordable city if their employer moved to a permanent remote workforce. In fact, the option to telework could give 1.92 million, or 4.5%, of renters the ability to move and afford a "starter home" in a more affordable location, according to Young.
Boston suburb Lowell, MA, for instance, has home values that are about half the price of a home in Boston. And Yelp data shows a recent 21% increase in consumer interest for movers in the Boston metropolitan area.
Not only are more workers considering leaving cities, but some smaller cities are actively enticing workers to move and work remotely. Tulsa, OK, Savannah, GA, and Topeka, KS are paying individuals anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 to relocate.
Other forces like the effects of climate change could soon exacerbate worker migration patterns as well. Last year, more people moved from California than arrived there for the first time in 10 years, the Washington Post reports. The warming temperatures wildfires — weather events linked to climate change — are two reasons that people have decided to leave.
Almost half a million homes worth $268.2 billion were vulnerable to wildfire damage in 2019, according to Young. And she said 802,555 homes, valued at $451 billion, were deemed vulnerable to rising floodwaters by 2050.
"As wildfires, floods and climate-related events continue to make headlines we expect that these considerations will weigh heavily on where people choose to live," Young said.