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Phoenix, Tucson see mass increase in residents, putting strain on housing and apartment markets

The Interstate-8, I-10 and I-40, handles droves of California residents traveling to and from Phoenix, Tucson and other Arizona destinations. More than 343,300 residents have moved from California to neighboring states, notably Arizona. 

This exodus hit its highest rates during the crux of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. 

”The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the process of work being converted from in-person to remote work,” said Arizona State University Department of Economics Clinical Assistant Professor Kartik Verma. “Many employers and workers realized that it would be cheaper to be based out of and work in relatively less expensive places.” 

A study by U-Haul found that locations in California ranked last among all 50 mainland states in one-way truck rentals, most likely meaning these rentals were for families moving to or from states. California has been ranked at least 48th or lower in the study since 2016. This means California ranks in the bottom of people renting U-Haul trucks to move to California. Texas, Florida, Arizona and Colorado ranked in the top 10 states. 

Apartment finder ApartmentList’s Apartment List Renter Migration Report for 2022 found that 13% of users looking for apartments to rent in Phoenix were currently living in Los Angeles, which had the largest portion of users looking for a Phoenix apartment among American cities.

According to, moving from Los Angeles to Phoenix with a $60,000 annual salary would increase one’s salary an additional $8,000 in disposable income on that same salary in the state of Arizona.

But as newcomers from other states set their sights on Phoenix and other cities in Arizona, many wonder where they are going to live. Currently, the Phoenix metro area is experiencing a concerning housing shortage. According to Census data, 13,224 people moved to Phoenix from 2020 to 2021. This puts a strain on the current housing market as there is now more demand for housing.

“As the demand for housing increases … what can happen is that supply keeps up with an increase in demand, but in the housing market, projects take time to finish,” Verma said. “Usually, there are mismatches between demand and supply, increasing housing prices.” 

Another reason Californians prefer to live in Arizona is the lower cost of living. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, California is 15.6% more expensive than Arizona when comparing their regional price parities, which measures price levels for each state. “With more expensive places in California, the difference in cost of living between the two states would be even more stark,” Verma said.

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