Scranton, Pennsylvania (CNN) As a city with the highest percentage of residents who are retired, Scrantons car rental market is expected to shrink this year.
It’s also likely to shrink for the first time in several years.
The median home value in Scrant on the Eastern Shore is now just shy of $200,000, down about 9% from a year ago.
The median monthly rent in Scrants central business district is $2,100, down by a third from $3,000 in 2016.
But while the Scrantonian population has shrunk, the car rental industry has grown.
In Scrant, car rental services are being served by more than 60 different car rental companies, with more than 30% of them located in Scants downtown business district, which includes the old city of Scrant and the former headquarters of the city of Baltimore.
It’s a mix of older, middle-aged and young professionals, many of whom are single or divorced and looking for a place to live that offers a good value for their money.
But the numbers don’t lie: According to the rental market research firm Zillow, more than $2.5 trillion is being invested in rental cars each year.
That includes more than 3 million rental cars in the city, nearly 1.3 million in downtown Scrant.
The city of roughly 10 million people, with an annual gross domestic product of $16.6 billion, is the nation’s sixth largest city, according to the Census Bureau.
Scrant sits in the center of the Northeast corridor, which is home to the major metropolitan areas of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, DC.
“You have all of these cities that are booming, so you’ve got these very large metropolitan areas and all these smaller cities that have the same population and are very dependent on these big metropolitan areas,” said Jim Dine, the chief executive officer of Zillows.
The Scrantan community has been trying to make ends meet for years.
Dine said the city has been struggling to find a way to sustain its aging population, which has ballooned from 9,800 in 1990 to 32,500 in 2016, according the Census.
It has also been hit hard by the opioid epidemic, which saw more than 12,000 overdose deaths in 2016 and more than 4,000 deaths in 2017.
Many of the cars being leased in Scant are used by people with chronic conditions, like diabetes, asthma, heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and high cholesterol, which increases the risk of death, according Zillowers research.
One Scrantite who works at a large commercial bank, a major insurance company, a bank that’s owned by Scrant’s largest insurance company and a major auto dealer said the market is so saturated, there are no new cars coming onto the market for the foreseeable future.
That means they’re getting older, more expensive and less accessible to younger workers.
“This is what’s going to happen to us,” said John Batson, who works for a Scrant bank and a large insurance company.
“The younger generation is not going to be able to afford this anymore.”
In 2017, Scant recorded more than 40 opioid overdose deaths and 2,700 deaths from opioid-related diseases, including fentanyl and carfentanil, according a 2016 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And the city is now in the middle of the worst heroin epidemic in decades, with a resurgence in heroin use that has been linked to an increase in the use of fentanyl, according Batson.
Despite the economic downturn and the rise of heroin, some people have been reluctant to take out a car loan because they fear being kicked out of their home, according Michael Dore, president of Scant’s Chamber of Commerce.
Dore said the average cost of a car rental is now $2 to $3 per month, which he said is “a lot of money” for a person living on their own.
However, a new law passed in December aims to cut the average loan rate for cars from 30% to 15%, which would help reduce the number of people living in poverty.
This would help make it easier for Scrantans working-age population to afford cars.
There are other challenges to the Scant rental industry, too.
It is facing challenges from a growing number of car rental agencies that operate in the suburbs and cities.
Scant has about a dozen agencies, including the company that operates the Scrants new car rental company, which declined to be interviewed.
But the problem with Scrant is not the amount of cars being rented, said Dore.
It comes down to the need for people to have access to safe cars.