(As published by Medium)
Starting in the early summer, we started to see uncharacteristic numbers of unsubscribes from our newsletter. At first I thought it was just people who were over the news. Every new morning in 2020 means waking to some fresh horror, and sometimes we have to be the messengers of that horror. I wasn’t taking it personally. But over time, I started to suspect another dynamic was at play. Lots of people were leaving DC.
There were lots of possible reasons for this, but they generally fell into two camps. There were moves of choice, ranging from a mistaken belief that cities were driving infections to an understandable desire to be near family during an uncertain time. But there were also moves of necessity, brought on by the waves of furloughs and layoffs sweeping through entire sectors of the DC economy.
This upheaval exposes so many different interesting elements of how we live and work today. There’s the liberatory aspect to working remotely, which nukes carbon-spewing commutes — but also the disturbing precarity revealed by thousands of people whose rents became unaffordable overnight. Many will return to families and perhaps usher in a new age of multigenerational living — but for many, that won’t be a choice at all.
Social scientists will be poring over the statistics and life histories of those who lived through this year for decades to come. With a survey, we’ve collected both kinds of data.
A general picture emerges from the survey. The moving phenomenon is real, and it’s muddled. Two-thirds appear to have moved because remote working meant that they had greater preference in where to live, a number that doesn’t speak especially well of DC’s innate attractiveness as a city — but we don’t know how many of those are making the choice based on financial calculations rather than aesthetico-cultural (lifestyle?) ones. Young people — they’re almost all under 35 — have complex reasons for leaving. For many, it’s a temporary reprieve or retreat, and they plan to be back. But who knows what will happen in the interim.
Now, your stories:
Financially, it made more sense for me to give up my apartment and save on rent while living with my family. Being in a place with a larger personal support system, more options to spend time outside safely, and a lower population has done wonders for my mental health.
It was going to be a temporary thing starting in March but then I was furloughed for three and a half months before finally being officially let go. In May, my lease ended and I went back up to DC briefly to move into a new apartment, a lease I then had to break (and come back up to DC to move out of an apartment I’ve never lived in and put things into storage) because I wasn’t living there and won’t be for a while, and even the lease breaking fees will break even before I’m likely able to come back to DC. I got a new job in August (yay!) in DC, but since it’s remote, and I can live in Florida for free and save so much money and also have MUCH more space than my studio apartment, it’s a no-brainer. I love DC and I will be back, but the parts of DC I love aren’t active right now. Even if they were, I’m not sure if I’d be able to afford coming back, at least for now.
I have not. But I have witnessed 3 friends move out of DC to live with their parents and work remotely. Good for them, I guess. As a working adult for several years, I personally could never do this. I value my independence. If I lost my job, I would feel differently.
My roommate and I put our stuff in storage and each of us moved home to save money while working remote. We’ll come back to DC when we have to go into the office, but why waste money on high rent prices in the city when we can’t enjoy the city.
Moving to Puerto Rico to work remotely from there until the pandemic ends.
Yes. Pandemic allowed me to work remotely, so I moved back home to save money on rent. It has been a hit socially, but I’m now in a better financial state to return to DC.
My friend is about to move to Costa Rica because they used to do live events as a main income source, which is obviously a nonstarter right now. Currently they have a very limited freelance income that they could actually live on there, as opposed to in the DMV. I think they want to come back someday, but it makes no sense for them financially to be here right now.
Yes, decided to move somewhere cheaper/ with more outdoor space since I’m working remotely for the foreseeable future
…the pandemic has certainly planted a bit of a seed for the possibility of moving somewhere else just because. I love DC and don’t think I will ever pull the trigger, but I’ve definitely thought about it.
Yes, due to the pandemic. I had moved to DC in February and it was quite difficult to build networks and community in a new city under social restrictions and economic uncertainty
My girlfriend & I left DC so we could work remotely in a warmer place surrounded in nature. Lease canceled, furniture in storage, the whole deal. Unfortunately, my office has required that all employees move back to DC by Jan 2021 even though we will still be in required remote work and prohibited from coming to the office. Super tough for younger workers who had gone to other cities/states to save money. Leadership says it’s for “tax/labor law reasons” but still pretty tone deaf to an org of 400+. Anyone else experiencing something similar?
I know a lot of people who have moved home to wait out the pandemic, but so far all plan to return to DC
Yes, I moved home (from DC) since I could telework and save on rent and be around less people.
I moved home to my parents in March because I had a hunch this would be a long time at home — unfortunately I was right! I have now met a guy in my hometown and am not sure of where I’ll ultimately end up. I’ve been working remotely the entire time.
I have not had to move home this year. But my dad (who lives in WV) pretty much brings up the fact that I *should* move home with him every conversation — he believes it’s “safer” there. (What “safer” means is pretty nebulous.)
Yes briefly and I’m considering it for the winter. With so many of my friends having left DC it seems like it will be a lonely ghost town in the coming months. DC is a transient city and the pandemic definitely fast tracked a lot of people’s plans to move
I haven’t yet but I plan to move to a more affordable city as soon as my lease is up in November. Can’t break a lease but ready to move somewhere with a cheaper cost of living now that my partner and I are both fully remote.
I’m moving out October 24th. I was laid off in May.
Yes. I moved home because I am now able to work remotely full-time, and costs of living are significantly lower in my hometown than in DC.
Yes, no reason to stay in my expensive tiny apartment when I can work remotely for a year from anyplace I want to, including a short stint at my mother’s house.
While the spring/summer months were already tough, the idea of making it through the colder months without being able to see other people indoors seemed disastrous. I am keeping my DC apartment for now because I love it/don’t want to give up DC status/grateful to have a steady job for now, but that could change depending on when my employer wants me back in the office.
I moved out of DC because I was furloughed and couldn’t afford the outrageous rent. I am working again but live in Alexandria. (For reference, I am a dentist…)
I’m planning to move next year! Somewhere green and wild. I’ve always wanted to work remote and live wherever I want, and now the pandemic has made that possible. My company will be remote forever. Laying low for now until I figure out where to go next.
Yes I moved home for a few months over summer and then my partner (WFH) and I (job lost) moved back to his family in Italy for the coming winter after letting go of our DC apartment, we preferred to leave the country because we feel the USis not handling the pandemic well and I was having anxiety about the coming election and unrest that might bring.
Yes, I left DC too and lived with my parents for 6 months. I wasn’t economically impacted by COVID, I just wanted to spend more time with them as they get older and they took in my grandma too. I love the generational housing points made on twitter/in media recently, my grandma and I had some hilarious conversations. I have a few friends in this position too, the lower opportunity cost (limited activities to do) made the prospect of staying with aging parents more attractive. When else would we get to do this? Never, we thought.
I am personally moving out of D.C for the winter to save on rent. Hope to return to the city in the spring. Luckily our office is working remotely until the end of the year.
Yes due to the pandemic. Living with roommates in DC wasn’t feasible or desirable anymore. My parents live in Virginia so it wasn’t that far. Now I’m back in my childhood bedroom slowly losing touch with the life I lived before March. Remember events and friends and live music?
Yes. I moved home to RI in July and it was great to be with my mom and rediscover my state as an adult. She lives alone and there’s not much to do in the state but at my age I know how to find fun. Plus, it’s not like there’s a lot going on anywhere. I’m back in DC now but have booked a one way ticket back to RI. I’ll rent out my apartment so I can use that money to help my mom with her rent as she also retired recently. The pandemic has amplified a lot for me about work, the economy and how horrible capitalism is for young people and especially the elderly. We literally live to work and are lied to about what’s promised to us when we are retired. My mom has worked 40 years in America caring for rich elderly people and is not only able to receive $1000/mo in social security and her rent is $950 a month. It’s a travesty. Moving home, I’ll be able to help her, keep my job and save money…possibly past my student loans off finally, too. DC is a nice place to live but the social bonds we build there are built around this faulty premisf work till you break. I feel bad for small businesses and the spaces that we are leaving behind but my family is most important. Plus, I love a little too close to the covid-19 epicenter that is the white House and Congress. I’ll take my bets on a state that locked out new yorkers in March. If 45 wins, my family and I have discussed moving to Nigeria on our Nigerian citizenship. America is dying but we’re not.
Yes, we can no longer enjoy my favorite parts of D.C. (ease of public transportation, restaurants, events, etc.) The city doesn’t seem worth it anymore.
I am moving home in three weeks. I have lived in DC for 8 years, and I have not lived at home since I was 18. I am looking forward to not paying rent, aggressively paying down debt, and saving money, as the pandemic has oddly become an opportunity to drastically reimagine what my life can look like, and I would like to set myself up for flexibility in the after-time.
No reason to pay rent when most things that I loved about the city were closed for many months
Lease ended, no great options with pandemic, so decided to move in with family to save money in the meantime.
Yeah. Still reading 730 though!
Photo licensed through Shutterstock