Five Ways the Denver Rental Market Is Evolving

Ask any long-time Denverite, and they can tell you about the many ways the city has changed over the last ten years. Surely some of the most salient changes will be about who has moved in, who has moved away, and what it takes to afford to live here. These migration patterns are linked to the fact that renting is becoming an increasingly common way-of-life in Denver. But like the city itself, renting has changed dramatically from what it was a decade ago. Below, we dive into five of the most important ways that renting is evolving in the Mile High City.

1. Today, more households rent than own

The past decade has precipitated a shift in the way American families pay for their housing. Across the country, homeownership has dropped to its lowest point in 50 years, and the switch from owning to renting has been particularly dramatic in Denver, where population and cost of living have increased steadily. The city added over 51,000 households from 2008 to 2017, and 73% of them rent. Today, Denver’s renter population (157,661 households) exceeds its homeowner population (153,668 households), a gap that could continue to grow as the affordability crisis puts homeownership out of reach for low-income families.

2. Today, there are over 4x as many renters earning six-figure incomes

Apartment List recently examined the nation-wide surge in high-income renters, a phenomenon driven by new demand for urban living and new construction of dense, renter-friendly, multi-family housing. High-income renter growth is happening faster in Denver than anywhere else in the nation; in the city, the number of renters with six-figure salaries quadrupled from 3,773 in 2008 to 16,172 in 2017, representing 329 percent growth. Lower-income renters are also on the rise, but at substantially slower rates of growth.

3. Today, there are fewer kids and more seniors living in rentals

Child-free households are driving the recent growth in Denver’s renter population. The city added 77,006 new renters from 2008-2017, but during that time the number of renters younger than 18 actually dropped by 585. As the cost of living continues to rise, more parents are electing to move out of the city in order to afford raising their families. Moving in are households that do not have kids and who are willing to pay a premium for an urban lifestyle. Denver’s senior renter population is also expanding, reflective of a broader national trend in which elderly Americans are ceding the responsibilities of homeownership in favor of better access to services and age-appropriate amenities. The number of renters ages 65 and older grew 26%, from 16,535 in 2008 to 20,805 in 2017.

4. Today, there are nearly 4x as many renters working from home

Non-traditional commuting patterns are becoming more popular across the country, and the fastest-growing commute type is actually no commute at all. This is particularly true in growing, mid-size technology hubs like Denver, which in 2017 had the nation’s third-highest rate of teleworkers. And among Denver renters specifically, the number working from home has nearly quadrupled in the past decade, from 4,238 to 16,593. As for those who do leave the house for work, some sustainable commuting habits have become more popular (i.e., walking or riding a bike), while public transit use is down and private vehicle ridership is up.

5. Today, nearly 20,000 married couples rent their homes and live with roommates

The typical story of the American family was once a simple one: first you get married, then you buy a house, then you have kids and raise them in a yard circled by a white picket fence. Today, that story has changed. Being ready for marriage is no longer synonymous with being ready to buy a home, and many couples – by choice or by necessity – are sacrificing a bit of privacy to live in their preferred city or neighborhood. In Denver, there are 19,422 married couples who not only rent their homes, but also live with a non-family roommate. This non-conventional living arrangement is more than twice as common in 2017 as it was in 2008.

Rob Warnock

Rob is a research associate at Apartment List, where he examines trends in the housing and rental markets. Previously he worked in public health policy, and before that, graduated from UCLA with a degree in Globalization.



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