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  • Writer's pictureCRAIKER

How Will We Live After This Pandemic?

The Pandemic’s three months of shelter-in-place may have changed our lifestyles and proximity to one another forever. Not just where we stand, but where we will live. If we can’t maintain less than 6 feet social distancing, how will we live as neighbors, use public transportation, go back to commuting or working side-by-side?

Our office environment is changing and while populations were previously moving from Suburbia back to cities, we now know close physical proximities expose us to dangerous maladies.

The future will see multiple trends. Some experts predict smaller homes, micro-condominiums, and part-time commuter apartments. On the other hand, some speculate homeowners will want larger, more spacious, and tech-savvy homes. One survey showed tight spaces were the most common complaint of homeowners during the pandemic.

A recent Forbes report suggested some trends after this pandemic:

1. Technology and unique buildings will be high demand: People will move back to urban areas but only if they have a special home, not a cookie-cutter condo.

2. Converting existing offices and commercial spaces to living spaces will become highly desirable: With the current commercial slump, more standing inventory will be rehabilitated to living spaces.

3. While private outdoor spaces are desirable, a dedicated office space is a “must-have”: Dedicated home/office space, no matter how compact, will be future apartments latest amenity. Private decks, unusable from stored bicycles and clutter, will be passé.

4. Construction prices will rise with material and skilled labor shortages looming.

Already more people are moving to rural Central Valley communities, historically struggling with high unemployment and low community life. These burbs have heightened buyer interest by Bay Area residents anxious to eliminate commuting. Shelter-in-place has taught even plumbers they can accomplish a lot remotely.

In an updated housing report, new home purchases jumped 19% in late May, compared to a year earlier when the market was still active.

While the pandemic’s toll on the real estate market was terrible initially, home purchases have exceeded 15% and home price appreciation is in the 5% range above the start of the shutdown. Interestingly, this turnaround appears mostly driven by first time buyers who are younger, more technologically savvy, and open to working remotely.

The other current trend, hastened by the pandemic, is Live/work or having a commercial-like office or studio in your home. Similar to home occupation permits common in most cities, Live/work is a perfect extension of remote working many of us are currently experiencing. While live/work used to be an urban fringe repurposing of tired old buildings, the trend is accelerating new communities. This is an ideal use for existing commercial or industrial zoned properties as the vacancy rises. More and more entrepreneurs will find a home combined with an office fits their lifestyle perfectly.

All this is good for realtors and sellers but the missing ingredient is affordable housing for the vast majority of working poor Americans. 40 million Americans cannot afford their own home and rent continues to climb beyond most incomes.

Our ability to match income with housing will be the greatest challenge coming out of this pandemic.

Chris d Craiker, AIA/NCARB

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