The Rise of the Renting Family in Suburban Chicagoland

As homeownership has declined, renting has become increasingly popular among those looking to raise a family and benefit from suburban schools and communities

Across the United States, families with children now represent a larger share of renter households (33 percent) than homeowner households (30 percent.) As part of this trend, the Chicago suburbs are experiencing a surge in parenting renters (35–64 years old). Considering more than 42.8 percent of new renters in suburban counties (including suburban Cook County) have children younger than 18 years old, developers should appeal to the amenity needs of this group

2015 Net Change in Homeowners vs Renters

Interactive version for 2011 to 2016 can be found here.

2015 was a banner year for both loss in homeownership and gain in rentership. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey

While suburban homeownership slid by 3.0 percent between 2011 and 2016, the number of homeowners with children decreased by 11.9 percent in the same period. This drop is likely due to several factors. Firstly, as the make-up of children and adolescents (18 years old and younger) transitions from millennial to the smaller Generation Z, we will see a natural reduction in the total number of individuals in the youngest age group. Secondly, the well-documented migration of many residents from Northern cities to Southern and Western cities could be contributing to this negative growth. And some of these homeowners may be deciding to change lifestyles and become renters.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

By comparison, the increase of suburban Chicago renters is strong at 16.6 percent, though the growth of renting parents exceeds this at 19.1 percent. Counties of significant growth included Kane, Lake and the suburban areas of Cook County.

Key Takeaways

  • With more renters in the prime child- and adolescent-rearing years (35–64), future deliveries should adjust to match these needs: While there will always be the inclination to relocate to single-unit ownership (as opposed to multifamily renting) during parenting years, this stigma has begun to fade.
  • Many families may try to find single-unit (single family home) rentals, but few of these units exist, and a savvy developer should appeal to the sensibilities of a parent. Developers hoping to attract this renter should address proximity to education (from early daycare age onward), parks, museums and other kid-friendly attractions.
  • Consider amenity spaces that could cater to the needs of parents and children alike — this could be anything from playgrounds to dedicated babysitting areas for parents to decompress.
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