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Affordability has been a priority for renters during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Assurant’s recent Multifamily Housing Renter Perspective Study. Findings show that 40% of the renters surveyed noted they relocated to more affordable properties, while 34% moved into other units as a roommate for a more affordable living situation.

“Renters’ needs are ever changing during these unprecedented times, as so many have been forced to reevaluate how their living circumstances serve their new virtual lifestyles,” said Ryan Lumsden, president of multifamily housing at Assurant. “While property managers and service providers are trying to adapt to the new normal and adhere to the needs of renters, we are still finding that financial instability has remained a significant focus and burden for renters.”

The nationwide study, which included 608 individuals and was conducted in January, measured against baseline data collected from an initial study in May 2020 to measure the ongoing impact of the pandemic.

Regarding the financial instability burden, almost half of the survey respondents, 46%, said they needed rent relief in 2020; an additional 24% said they anticipated needing future assistance within the next 90 days to help meet their housing needs. According to Assurant, the number of people indicating they will need assistance in the coming months has substantially decreased in 2021 and can be attributed to rent relief and that many have altered their living arrangements.

The study also shows that 78% of survey respondents would remain in their current rentals if they were given the opportunity to renew their lease for a shorter period of time and with no monthly payment increase.

Opinions have shifted on the features residents are looking for in their housing. Almost three-quarters, 73%, of survey respondents said the most important feature this year is larger living spaces as they have adapted to more time at home. This was a 5% increase over 2020, when lower-density areas or communities garnered the most importance at 71%.

From a financial perspective, according to Assurant, the No. 1 aspect for residents remained the same as 2020—a more affordable rental. This was followed by lower move-in costs, including security deposit alternatives, and more flexible lease terms. In addition, more than three-quarters of respondents say they would be able to immediately pay a cash security deposit, if needed.