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Report: Up to 23 Million American Households Plotting a Move for Affordability. Could Houston Benefit? 

Published Oct 30, 2020 by A.J. Mistretta

downtown Houston

Seismic changes in the way we work brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic are prompting a large swath of Americans to plan moves to more affordable places, according to a new survey. That could prove advantageous to more affordable U.S. cities like Houston where home prices and everyday living expenses are below the national average. 

The report from freelance marketplace firm Upwork reveals that 14 to 23 million U.S. households intend to move to less expensive housing markets. The emerging migration pattern is the result of growing acceptance of remote work amid the pandemic. Many experts believe that trend will continue in some form across multiple industries even after the threat of the virus has waned. 

The survey found that the shift to remote work will increase near-term migration within the U.S. by three to four times the standard rate. Anywhere from 6.9% to 11.5% of households are planning to move. The survey of over 20,000 Americans was conducted October 1-15. 

The Upwork report indicates major cities will see the biggest out-migration, which over 20% of those planning to move currently based in a major city. But it’s the highest priced housing markets in the U.S. that are likely to take the biggest hit, such as New York, San Francisco and Boston. More than half of those surveyed said they are planning to move to a house that is significantly more affordable than their current home. 

“As our survey shows, many people see remote work as an opportunity to relocate to where they want and where they can afford to live,” says Adam Ozimek, Upwork’s chief economist. “This is an early indicator of the much larger impacts that remote work could have in increasing economic efficiency and spreading opportunity.”

The latest cost of living data comparing the nation’s 20 most populous metros shows Houston is currently the second most affordable market in the U.S., just behind St. Louis. Houston’s housing costs are 51.2% below the average of the 20 metros and 11.5% below the average of all U.S. cities, according to the Council for Community and Economic Research Cost of Living Index. 

Houston routinely scores high on lists ranking U.S. cities based on value for the money, or those metros offering the most amenities for the lowest cost of living. A report late last year from The Ascent ranked Houston at No. 6 on its list of 10 best cities for salaries and low cost of living. The Bayou City was the only city with over 1 million residents on the list. 

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