'Zoom Towns': Paradigm Shift or Age-Old Pattern?

In California, housing prices have shot up in resort areas like Lake Tahoe and Big Bear and in suburbs like Mountain House and Rancho Cucamonga. Are urbanities fleeing, or are young adults doing what young adults have always done?

February 2, 2021, 11:00 AM PST

By Josh Stephens @jrstephens310


California and Nevada

South Lake Tahoe, pictured in April 2020. | DTM Media / Shutterstock

"Ever since cities locked down in order to reduce transmission of the coronavirus, debates have raged over the epidemiological implications of density and, less esoterically, over whether center cities remain can attractive when there’s nothing to do. While many in the state do not have the means to pick and choose exactly where they want to live, the combination of remote work and pandemic ennui has prompted untold numbers of well-off urban Californians to retreat to suburbs and to exurban 'Zoomtowns.'"

"Moreover, according to a recent report by AdvisorSmith, some of the most dramatic increases in rental rates in the nation are in California. Rancho Cucamonga (up 13%) ranks third, Murrieta (11%) ranks eighth, and Chino Hills ranks ninth, with Temecula, Bakersfield, and Fresno also in the top 25. And yet some of the most dramatic reductions in rental rates also are in California. The Bay Area cities of San Francisco, Mountain View, and Sunnyvale rank 4-6, with declines of over 20% each. Eight other Bay Area cities fill out the other 19 spots."

"The much larger question is whether, after younger Californians especially spent so many years living it up in cities center cities, this trend reflects short-term concerns about the virus or long-term preferences. If only the former is true, then newly expensive suburbs and Zoomtowns may be in for a crash whenever urban life returns to normal."

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