Reports in recent years have warned of a mass exodus of people from the Bay Area and California as a whole. Some have argued the issue isn’t so much that more people are leaving, but rather fewer people are moving in to the state to replace those who did exit.

That argument has held true for San Francisco, where the Los Angeles Times reported on a new study showing that, “Since the beginning of the pandemic, net domestic exits from the Bay Area ‘have increased 178% compared to pre-pandemic trends, with a 9% increase in departures and a 21% decrease in entrances.’”

So who is moving to San Francisco? Young folks, a new study finds.

A real estate listing firm called Rentcafé found that the number of rental applications by people who fall into Gen Z (defined as those born between 1997 and 2012) have increased by 21% in the past year. Meanwhile, as we just discussed, rental applications from every single other generation have been lessening. Millennials, for instance, saw an 8% decrease in rental activity.

Your first thought may simply be that Gen Z’ers are coming of age and therefore starting to look for housing at greater rates. That’s true to a degree, but Rentcafé found that isn’t the only factor in the influx of kids to the Bay Area. People in the Gen Z age group moved to San Francisco more than any other city in the United States last year, Rentcafé found.

Between 2020 and 2021, people who fall into Generation Z were filling out 21% more leases nationwide, as compared with the year before. When that search is narrowed to San Francisco, Rentcafé says those 20-somethings had a 101% increase in rental applications. They now make up more than a fifth of all people looking to lease in SF.

Gen Z renters are also extremely interested in San Jose, it turns out. That city ranked as number 7 on a list of the top 10 places where that age group filled out rental applications, with 18% of rental applications being filled out by Gen Z renters.

There could be more rental spaces available for that age group, too, if the trend of older people leaving continues. Research suggests that is likely to happen.

In October of 2021, a poll by Joint Venture Silicon Valley surveyed 1,600 registered voters from five different counties across the Bay Area, and found 56% of respondents planned to leave. Those findings presented a 10% jump from a poll taken by the Bay Area Council before the pandemic.

Those surveyed cited high cost of living and housing costs as the top reasons for wanting to move. After that, they listed homelessness, drought conditions, and wildfires as reasons they wouldn’t want to stay. 52% of respondents said the Greater Bay Area was on the wrong track.

Clearly, that hasn’t stopped the younger generations from flocking West.

“A lively vibe, diversity, jobs and great connectivity are just a few of the many reasons that the youngest generation of renters finds large cities attractive,” Rentcafé explained.

Photo: National Park Service