Millennials and the Urban Renaissance


Although it can seem that the term millennial means someone who is digitally-savvy, in reality this group of people is so much more and thanks to studies and articles we can see that they are in fact responsible for a type of urban renaissance.

An article from Urbs.London has highlighted that city centres in England and Wales are now full of young, well-educated and well-paid individuals, which it groups as part of generation Y (having obviously followed on from generation X). Although this growth has been initially slow in London – perhaps due to the cost of living in the city – the capital has still seen a 33 per cent increase of people in their 20s coming to London’s city centre over the past decade.


Analysis from Centre for Cities has shown that the amount of people aged between 22 to 29 years old living in city centres has tripled in recent years. This is because millennials are returning to urban areas, instead of living in suburban or countryside areas.

It is young people who are driving up the numbers of people who are living in cities and it has been the same ever since the beginning of this century.

A report titled Urban Demographics: Where People Live and Work has shown that city suburbs in England grew by eight per cent between 2001 and 2011, which marked an increase of 2.3 million people during this 10-year period. However, city centres grew by 37 per cent during the same period of time and it is millennials who have been sparking this growth.

The same statistics showed that the amount of high-skilled jobs has also increased over the past ten years, marking a 47 per cent spike in central London. The research from the Centre for Cities institute supports this statistic, however it also says that London’s economy and jobs market give it some unique characteristics, perhaps meaning that it has potentially more to offer millennials than other city centres.

In general it seems to be that more highly educated individuals live in city centres and are more likely to be managers or senior professionals in companies than people living in or commuting from suburban towns. According to research from the Centre for Cities, 50 per cent of London city-dwellers have a university degree, while 66 per cent of its city centre residents hold jobs in senior management positions. This is again higher than those who live in the suburbs, but it’s also nearly 15 per cent higher than in other large cities in England and Wales.

According to the study, it says that the people who want to live and work in the centre of London are keen to stay there to be near to its amenities. Similarly, living in the city centre means that there is less of a commute to work and there will be other, like-minded people living in the surrounding area and these will usually be a steadily growing group of millennials.

However, living in the centre of cities can be expensive, and it’s definitely a factor for those living in London, which is famous for having costly property, both to buy and to rent. This is what makes London slightly different from other cities as the age range of young people widens to take into account the expense of property.

As such, there are a similar number of people living in the city centre of London who are aged between 30-44 as there are between 20-29, however the younger group are still recording larger levels of growth into the city.

In 2011, the amount of people living in London city centre in 2011 and who were aged between 30-44 was 78,606, while those who were 20-29 made up 78,473 people in the city centre population. However, these mark a 16.4 per cent and 33.5 per cent respective growth from 2001, showing that the influx of the younger age group moving into the city centre of London is growing at a much faster rate.

As London is sprawling, the study by the Centre for Cities took the city centre of London to include a two-mile radius around Holborn. The research also used the census data on small neighbourhoods found in various boroughs in the area, which included Westminster and areas of Pimlico and Knightsbridge.

These are particularly affluent areas of London, which highlights that the jobs and residences that are held in this part of the city are taken up by highly educated and successful people, in this case, over-achieving millennials. This is again what separates London from other city centres throughout the UK, as young professionals have carried over into several areas of the city centre. Other city centres are too small for this to happen, whereas London’s size sees the living conditions of its young professionals become more widespread.

Another thing that millennials are driving in city centres is their love of renting apartments and housing, rather than buying property. There are many reasons for why this is, some of it is due to the flexibility that renting affords young people. If a travel or job opportunity opens up abroad, then leaving a rental agreement is much easier than trying to get out of a 20-year mortgage. Similarly, if a millennial has moved into an area that turns out to be unsatisfactory, they’re only tied to that place under a six-month or one-year lease.

Further reasons for the millennial love of renting include the ability to have a landlord update and fix things in their property. One thing that many city apartments also offer are amenities included in the price of rent, a gym for example or a recreation room, that promotes a sense of handiness and community in the building.

However, the reality is that the amount of people in their early twenties buying their own home has been decreasing over several years, due to an inability to afford to save for expensive housing. This is definitely part of the reason why there are so many millennial renters in London and particularly in city centre London, where property prices can be stratospheric. As a result, millennials are driving an urban renaissance as the city centre renting generation, which is what you’ll find across the board in London.

Overall, home ownership is lower in all city centres as opposed to home ownership in suburban areas and the amount of property for rent in city centres makes renting an attractive option for many young working professionals.

According to Centre for Cities, 90 per cent of London city centre residents live in flats or apartments instead of houses, which is 15 per cent higher than other city centres across the UK. It stands however, that most millennials will choose to rent a flat over a house, perhaps for the aforementioned sense of community that apartment buildings can create.

To align with the lack of young homeowners, those who live in city centre London are also unlikely to own a car. The study showed that in London, only eight per cent of residents own cars and that in general, Londoners are far more likely to use public transport or walk to get from one place to another.