It's not news that people are moving to the Austin area in droves, nor is it a revelation that—despite the California clichés—most of them are moving from other parts of Texas. In addition, it will probably not come as surprise that most Austin renters moving out of the city are going to larger Texas cities.

In a sort of thought experiment loosely tied to its data, however, Apartment List has put a new spin on this residential rental churn. In a recently released study, the national listings site looks at the phenomenon of renters moving from cities with lower population densities to those with higher numbers of people per square mile. According to the Apartment List Renter Migration Report, that's true of Austin, where 22 percent of tenants looking to leave the city are eyeing Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston (in that order)—a number that the study says is up 20 percent (!) from this time a year ago. The report also found that 28 percent of renters outside the Austin metro area are looking to move into the city proper.

Courtesy of Apartment List

Of course, the report also finds that the most popular destinations for renters looking to leave Austin are Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston (in that order). And there are many reasons aside from density that people are moving to and from different urban centers. But in the comparison of its quarterly migration reports, it's looking for a pattern related to the COVID-19 pandemic, during which some portion of city dwellers—more in some parts of the country than in others—left for places that offered more distance between people/families/bubbles. Texas, which didn't shut down completely for most of the year, complicates the theory that all this movement is some kind of pandemic rebound. But in more general terms, the report makes a pretty convincing case that Cities Are Back—or, equally likely, that they never really left.