Low-Income Residents Less Likely to Move During the Pandemic, Freddie Mac Says

Does low-income residents staying put in large metro areas, relative to higher-income groups, mean that low-income households are missing out on affordable housing options? Freddie Mac researchers think so.

3 minute read

May 9, 2023, 11:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


View of back of moving van with back door open, loaded with boxes, next to a line of two-story apartment buildings.

New Africa / Moving van

Since the beginning of the pandemic, “low-income homebuyers are 25% less likely than moderate- and high-income homebuyers to move out of the top 25 largest metro areas by population,” according to new research by Freddie Mac. Moreover, “those who do move are more likely to move shorter distances.”

The research examined accepted loan applications between from 2018 to 2022, using data from Freddie Mac’s Loan Product Advisor® (LPA), according to a website created by Freddie Mac to share the research.

Among the key findings of the research is an increased pace of moving out of the 25 cities largest metros in the country. “Our analysis of the loan application data suggests that migration out from the top 25 largest metro areas increased for the overall population.”

But, according to the research, “Fewer low-income homebuyers moved out of large metro areas. Moreover, their net migration slowed more sharply after many restrictions related to COVID-19 were lifted or relaxed in March 2022.”

Lower-income movers were also more likely to move to rural areas and less likely to move to mid-sized metro areas, according to the research.

“One possible explanation for the difference in rates of migration between low-income and moderate- and high-income homebuyers is the flexibility of work opportunities​ for those groups,” according to the article.

Rama Yanamandra, Macro and Housing Economics Manager at Freddie Mac is quoted in the article saying that while many low-income households choose to live in larger metro areas for proximity to jobs, they might be missing out on more affordable housing options in more distant locations. The headline of the article also touts that low-income people are “More Likely to Miss Potential Cost Savings,” due to staying in larger metro areas.

While the research could have been the latest entry in the ongoing “urban exodus” narrative about shifting patterns of American life since the pandemic, Freddie Mac researchers go a step further in implying that equity suffers as a result of the relative lack of migration by low-income households. That framing of course, ignores, willfully or not, the large body of research about the additional costs of moving to suburban and rural communities, generated by increased transportation costs and lack of proximity to essential services and jobs.

Planetizen blogger Todd Litman has written extensively about the unexpected costs of automobile dependency. Here are a few articles written by Litman on the subject from the past five years:

Tuesday, April 25, 2023 in Freddie Mac

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