Friday, January 22, 2021

The Covid City Exodus

In the last few weeks I have read a number of reports estimating that the population of London has fallen by as much as 300,000 during the Covid epidemic. Part of this fall can be blamed on Brexit (many foreign-born workers have left the UK during the last year) however it is also widely believed that the rise of home working has encouraged many people to move out of the capital.

When people are not so tied to the office they may have become less keen to pay the higher costs associated with living in a city. During lock-down the social and cultural benefits of large cities have also largely disappeared and may have made the idea of rural living far more attractive. But is there any evidence for the anecdotal stories that many people are abandoning city living. One place to look for this evidence could be in the changing cost of rental properties in both urban and suburban locations.

There is certainly some evidence of this exodus from cities in Apartment List's National Rent Report. The report explores how rental prices rose and fell in American cities during 2020. The report shows that some of America's most expensive rental cities have seen a sharp drop in rents, while more affordable cities have seen a modest increase in rental prices. 

The National Rent Report interactive map illustrates the large drop in rents in cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. On the other hand a number of more traditionally affordable cities, such as Boise and Memphis have seen modest increases in rents over the duration of the Covid epidemic. 

AdvisorSmith has also been analyzing the trends in U.S. rents over the course of 2020. In Cities Where Rents Are Rising and Falling the Most the business insurance company lists and maps the ten cities where rents rose the most in 2020 and the ten cities where rents fell the most. 

San Francisco and Mountain View, California are both among the list of top 5 cities which have seen the largest fall in rents. Boston and New York are also in the top ten cities experiencing the largest rental decreases. AdvisorSmith note that these cities contain lots of professional and technical workers. Of whom many have taken to working from home during the epidemic.

It does appear from the rise and fall in city average rents that many people have taken the opportunity to move further from the office to somewhere with cheaper rents. It may not be as simple as saying that many people are moving out of cities because of Covid. Not all workers are able to work from home and not everybody can easily move homes. It will be interesting to note over the next few years whether working from home becomes more common and more widely accepted and whether this leads to a fall in the number of people living in our largest cities. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We have a neighbor who commutes on a weekly basis from LA to San Jose for work or did before COVID. I wonder if people like her have just dropped the rented apartment because they are working from home. The weekly commute is not a new phenomena, although I would suspect it has grown. When aerospace was bigger in LA many jobs moved with the programs (such as a new airplaine or radar system) and the employees usually just sucked up the commute rather than move for a few years. A friend rented a room mid-week to such a person.

PS reCAPTHA IS OBNOXIOUS, and it shows up after one has finished writing. I wouldn't bother to write if I knew ahead of time.