Boulder Top U.S. City for Gen Z Renters — and They're Paying Big

Boulder from the air.
Boulder from the air. YouTube
A new study by RENTCafe reveals that Boulder has a larger percentage of renters in the Gen Z category — those 23 or younger as of 2020 — than any other city in the country, big or small. Well over six out of ten people renting in Boulder qualify as Gen Z, and their housing costs are pricey under the best of circumstances — and absolutely eye-popping at the top of the market.

The report analyzed three million rental applications in more than 40,000 apartment communities nationwide, and Boulder wound up in the number-one slot, with 65 percent of its renters in the Gen Z category in 2020. Davis, California, was the next closest at 61 percent, and Conway, Arkansas, came in a distant third, with 52 percent.

Boulder's Gen Z stats dwarfed all its other demographics. Just 22 percent of renters there are classified as millennials; 8 percent fall into Generation X and only 5 percent are baby boomers.

Given the University of Colorado Boulder's size, Boulder's Gen Z dominance might seem predictable — but many other major college towns aren't represented on the list of Gen Z renters' favorite cities last year. Here's that list:

While no other Colorado cities made this roster, RENTCafe points out that the number of Gen Z renters is growing in other parts of the state, too. Westminster, which is near Boulder but generally boasts lower housing costs, saw its number of Gen Z renters climb by more than a third last year, bringing its 2020 share to 23 percent. Colorado Springs, meanwhile, is second to Boulder when it comes to Gen Z's slice of the rental pie, at 31 percent.

The Gen Z renter presence in other major Colorado cities? It's at 29 percent in Greeley, 28 percent in Fort Collins, 27 percent in Loveland and 21 percent in Denver.

The popularity of Boulder among Gen Z renters isn't being driven by cost. According to RENTCafe, there are 824 rentals currently available, including 220 one-bedroom units. Among those, the lowest listed prices were at the Lodge, 2900 East Aurora Avenue, which touts spots starting at $795 and escalating to $1,625. But only one other complex, at 795 30th Street, advertises a one-bedroom for less than $1,000; it's set at $995.

The overwhelming majority of Boulder one-bedrooms on the RENTCafe site are going for more than $1,500, with the most expensive at the Boulders, 2850 Kalmia Avenue, where units start at $2,112 and go up to $4,160.

The lowest price for a Mile High City one-bedroom on RENTCafe right now is $672, and dozens of other places are available for under $1,000 — though rent for Denver luxury models surpasses those in Boulder. For example, the Bromwell, at 355 Logan Street, lists one-bedrooms at between $2,030 and $6,205.

Still, Boulder is no place for rental bargain hunters, whether they're in Gen Z or not.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts