Chicago apartment renters aren't staying put at the start of 2021, and a 40% increase over the prior year's traffic indicates a healthy market despite the uncertainty that defined much of 2020. This wave of interest among apartment renters is the kind of spike that landlords were hoping would materialize after the turmoil brought on by the pandemic, which may have influenced many tenants in extending their leases rather than embarking on a search for a new apartment in 2020.
The greater hope among landlords and apartment managers is that a rising tide will lift all ships. Still, some neighborhoods -- including downtown Chicago neighborhoods -- are off to an uncharacteristically strong start. Here are some of the neighborhoods that are benefiting most from the surge in renter interest for the beginning of 2021:
One of the downtown neighborhoods appearing on this list is River North, usually associated with its upscale dining and nightlife district. But for 2020, the stories were more about restaurant and bar closures, leading many to predict an exodus of downtown renters in 2021. While the nightlife scene may look slightly different from previous years, renters are willing to embrace River North's newfound identity (and some newfound affordability, for sure). Renters love living on the banks of the Chicago River, which has undergone extensive rehabbing in recent years to make it an excellent place for serene and socially distanced walks without leaving downtown Chicago. The neighborhood also has a substantial assortment of industrial-style loft apartments for rent, making River North a perennial favorite among renters looking for unique lofts and artistic spaces to call home.
Hyde Park is one of Chicago's most historic neighborhoods, but things are very active regarding attention from renters these days. An astonishing 75% uptick in visits to the Hyde Park neighborhood from the previous year indicates that renters are looking to get back into the Hyde Park habit in 2021. And why not? Leafy, residential streets exude tons of charm, while stately single-family homes, three-flats, and low-rise condominium or apartment buildings dominate the housing stock in Hyde Park. Many of the older gems among Hyde Park housing were converted into apartments for rent for the University of Chicago student population. The southern portion of Kenwood, which has a fair number of those historic mansions, is often merged with Hyde Park and referred to as Hyde Park-Kenwood.
Evanston apartments were another part of the Chicago metro area that witnessed strong double-digit growth at 31% over the prior year. This rising popularity of Evanston among renters may not come as a surprise in early 2021. This community along the North Shore has tons of neighborhood amenities for renters to enjoy: charming shopping districts, tons of park space right along Lake Michigan, access to the CTA Purple line and Metra UP-N trains, and excellent schools. The presence of Northwestern University typically drives huge interest among student renters for both on-campus and off-campus apartments. Still, this year renters of all occupations and ages will find plenty to like about Evanston with its proximity to Chicago and quasi-suburban feel.
With 81% gains in YoY traffic, the East Village Chicago had the most dramatic rise in interest from renters so far in 2021. This area that straddles W Chicago Ave balances easy access to downtown Chicago with real down-to-earth neighborhood vibes. Renters will appreciate quickly getting downtown in about 10 minutes (once offices are back open). They'll also like being able to easily explore the quiet side streets of Ukrainian Village or head over to the green spaces of Humboldt Park a bit further to the west.
The healthy interest among renters in Streeterville apartments (which had a 13% increase in search volume vs. the previous year) is a blow to speculations that renters might be staying away from downtown Chicago in 2021. Streeterville, which is home to the ever-expanding medical campus of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, remains a bankable live-work destination for renters who might be affiliated with the mammoth healthcare system at Northwestern or those who might be attending university at one of the nearby campuses. The neighborhood offers excellent access to Lake Michigan with some pretty awe-inspiring views. Loyola University, Northwestern University, and the University of Chicago have some classrooms or research facilities nearby.
Consistently ranked as one of Chicago's hippest places to call home, Ukrainian Village boasts a ton of upside for renters. The eateries along W Chicago Ave and bars along W Division St remain two of the primary draws for a night out. At the same time, the housing stock in Ukrainian Village retains a ton of charm thanks to its well-preserved two-flats, three-flats, and vintage apartment buildings. And clearly, 2021 will be another strong year for interest in this part of Chicago that manages to stay cozy while still being relaxed.
Even though the baseball season will look different in 2021 than in previous years, at least renters know that there will be less commotion during game days (until the bleachers at Wrigley Field reopen to total capacity, that is). Still, that could be a potential draw for renters looking for a good deal while signing a lease in the vicinity of the Friendly Confines at Wrigley Field. Landlords who have precious off-street parking usually reserve that as a side business for Chicago Cubs fans who drive in to watch the games, but with fewer fans in attendance, that could translate to more renters scoring parking for their vehicles in 2021.
A far north side neighborhood that takes pride in its small business scene and celebrates its status as an LGBTQ-friendly area, Andersonville is an area that draws strong interest from apartment renters year after year. That's a trend holding for this year as Andersonville apartments were searched 22% more than the previous season. Despite the upheaval brought on by 2020, the small businesses and restaurants of Andersonville have been finding ways to ride out the uncertainty with support from the community. Renters will like the ease of public transit (the no. 22 Clark bus runs directly through the central shopping district of Andersonville) and being only a mile or so west of the lakefront in most Andersonville apartments.
Renters will find plenty to enjoy in Roscoe Village, a neighborhood populated with quaint single-family homes and sunny apartments. The eclectic mix of dining and shops along W Roscoe St remains a popular draw for renters in this neighborhood, while most day-to-day errands could be knocked out with a quick trip to supermarkets and shopping centers on Western Ave and N Lincoln Ave.
This neighborhood remains a bit of an unsung hero among north side communities. Why do renters seem to be more interested in North Center apartments? It could have something to do with its location as the bridge neighborhood between Ravenswood and Roscoe Village, and being slightly under-the-radar for many first-time renters in Chicago means that the price could be right; the median rental price of a one-bedroom in North Center was $1,250 in early 2021 compared to $1,400 in nearby Ravenswood.
Affordability meets relatively large-sized apartments in this northwest side enclave. Portage Park is a Chicago neighborhood where renters can reliably stretch their budget to get quite a bit more for their money; at the beginning of March 2021, the median rental price for a two-bedroom apartment in Portage Park was $1,500 per month. Not bad! The CTA Blue line provides access to downtown Chicago and O'Hare for Portage Park renters, while the Kennedy Expressway is at the neighborhood's eastern border for most other trips.