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Migrating Baby Boomers are Helping Drive Chicago's Hot Rental Market

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More folks in their 50s and 60s are ditching their homes to rent

While a desire to live in a dense, walkable urban environment has typically been the mantra among younger consumers such as millennials, the older generation is driving a noticeable uptick in Chicago’s rental market. According to a report appearing in the Chicago Tribune, an increasing number of baby boomers are ditching suburban homes in favor of renting in the city.

This trend is being repeated in other major metropolitan cities nationwide. In 2005 there were 10 million Americans in their 50s and 60s that chose to rent. The number has increased an astonishing 50% to 15 million by 2015. The same age bracket has accounted for more than half of the nation’s overall growth in renters over the past decade — though this increase is partly attributed to the sheer size of the boomer population.

Despite homeownership at one time being the goal for the majority Americans in their 50s and 60s, tastes are evolving as a number of empty-nesters struggle to see the benefits of maintaining a house in a suburban environment where shopping, dining, and entertainment options are comparatively limited. With owning a house no longer seen as the ultimate investment as it once was, many more middle-aged folks are looking to ditch their homes to free-up retirement capital in order to take advantage of the flexibility renting provides.

Lingering concerns over rising property taxes in Illinois have also contributed to this sentiment. Plus, the the convenience of elevator living is an attractive proposition for anyone with sore knees or a bad back.

Rental living also offers a toe-in-the-water experiment for baby boomers unsure about liquidating the equity they have built up in their homes. Also, because Chicago’s condo market has only recently rebounded at the highest luxury level, renting is often the only option available when it comes to living downtown.

Right now, renting in Chicago is primarily a choice for affluent baby boomers. Those looking to rent out of necessity after experiencing financial hardships have been less successful finding units at the low to moderate price points to match diminished budgets. As a result, the number of baby boomers renting more affordable suburban units has also increased over the past decade.