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They're running like the plague: the pandemic is forcing Americans to leave megacities

The coronavirus and the prospect of working from home for a long time have provoked a rush in many countries for the purchase and rent of housing in small towns. First of all, we are talking about the able-bodied population from 20 to 40 years old. The scale of departure from big cities is compared by the media with the situation during the plague epidemic in the XNUMXth century, writes Air force.

Photo: Shutterstock

In the USA, Great Britain and Australia, relocation to small towns is breaking all records. At a minimum, people want to survive a long-term coronavirus pandemic with lower risks, at the maximum, to change the life around them and get out of the usual closed circuit house - transport - office.

"We were given a joker card"

34-year-old writer Rosa Rankin-Gee grew up in London, lived for some time in Paris. More precisely, she recalls, she lived on sites for finding housing. She watched for a long time the large gap between its price and quality, and in 2019, unexpectedly even for herself, she decided to move from a metropolis to a small city.

Rose chose the small port town of Ramsgate in the English county of Kent. There she wrote the book Dreamland about herself and the representatives of her generation. The book will be released in spring 2021, and an excerpt from it was published by Vogue magazine.

Rankin-Gee tells the stories of people born from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. This generation, she says, has one thing in common: they grew up in successive global economic crises and had fewer career opportunities than their parents.

“Millennials received spoiled cartridges for shooting for financial purposes, but we were given a joker card - high-speed Internet,” says the writer.

And millennials have decided to leave the big cities.

This process, of course, did not start in 2020. Young people took their laptops and went to work remotely before. First of all, for financial reasons: a monthly rent of a two-bedroom apartment in San Francisco costs 3,5 thousand dollars; a small studio apartment in downtown London, Caner Wharf, can hardly be bought for less than half a million pounds, in Sydney it will cost 500 Australian dollars.

Having settled in small towns, millennials realized that they were continuing to do what they loved, and the debts accumulated in megacities - thousands of dollars, euros or pounds - were decreasing.

In 2020, the coronavirus came, and moving from big cities with crowded shopping malls and crowded public transport became a massive phenomenon.

On the subject: New Yorkers massively move to other states: where do Russian-speaking immigrants flee from the city

A simple desire is to be in nature

“Buyers and tenants are fleeing the big cities,” the analysts of the British real estate website Rightmove concluded in mid-October 2020. The number of requests for houses and apartments in cities with a population of less than 10, according to their calculations, has doubled.

“What started the year with a simple desire to be in nature has become a trend towards permanent relocation,” Rightmove spokesman Tim Bannister tells BBC.

Housing demand in the counties of Kent, Dorset, Berkshire, Devon, Cambridge and Suffolk (all located either around London or on the southeast coast of the UK) increased by 130-180% compared to last fall.

Tom Bannister says there are two reasons for this rush. Firstly, it is more comfortable, with access to nature, conditions for social distancing and remote work: some decide to move with the expectation that even when the pandemic is over, they will be able to continue to partially work from home, while others are ready to travel to the capital on a suburban transport without spending a lot of time on it.

This explains the desire to travel close: they would save even more on the cost of housing, but they would have to spend 5-6 hours a day only on the way to the office and back.

American approach

An equally striking trend is being observed in the United States. There has already been a wave of the first "covid" migration, when from March to May 2020, about 9 people temporarily left the 450 millionth New York (such data from the New York Times, based on the geolocation of mobile phone users).

The Atlantic journalist Amanda Il, in her article on the relocation of townspeople, says that on those spring days, only neighbors and couriers of delivery services could be seen on the street.

In October, the American sociological company The Harris Poll presented a study from which it follows: every third resident of a large city would like to move to a place smaller in size and population due to the coronavirus. Most of all, people between the ages of 18 and 34 are ready to move - exactly those about whom the British writer Rosa Rankin-Gee writes.

Sociologists from The Harris Poll confirm both her thoughts and the data of British analysts: the ability to work remotely makes you think about changing the place, especially since living in nature is much better than in a multi-storey building overlooking a busy road.

At the same time, the surveyed Americans would not like to go far from their place of work - and prefer to look for housing on the outskirts or within a radius of 100 kilometers from New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and other cities.

The New York Times cites a house in East Orange (a low-rise suburb of New York) as an example. It was put up for sale in August 2020 for $ 285. In three days, this house was viewed 000 times, and 97 buyers declared their readiness to pay immediately. The property ended up being sold 24% above its stated value.

Time magazine compares the scale of exodus from big cities to the situation during the plague epidemic in the XNUMXth century.

Exchange of values

Not a single researcher is yet ready to assess the scale and duration of moving from large cities - this phenomenon is not even in full swing, and its dynamics will depend both on the situation with the coronavirus and on the willingness of employers to see their employees less often or only via videoconferences.

Forbes magazine, in its September publication on American internal migration, has already called on the authorities and businesses in small cities to pay attention to the unique opportunities that are opening up due to the relocation of people who can afford it, and whose salaries and consumer needs are higher than those of the local population.

The publication Politico, in its study titled “Death of the City”, says that the pandemic has revealed the true value of such modern methods of communication as video conferencing, document sharing and instant messaging.

The value turned out to be so high that it began to threaten the existence of large cities in their current form. This is especially true for large office spaces that were empty in an instant.

Peter Clarke, professor of the history of European urbanism at the University of Helsinki, told Politico that if there were no second wave of coronavirus, such talk could have been considered speculation, but the second wave seems to be real, and therefore the modern model of the big city is under threat.

Peter Clarke says that by the second half of the 1980th century, cities were centers of attraction due to the factories and factories located there with higher wages. In the XNUMXs, de-industrialization began, and as a result, cities became centers for the service sector. The shift to homework for those who provide these services will change the very urban culture.

Credit Suisse, in its July analytical press release, suggested that office owners worry not about the price drop in the short term, but about the fact that about 15% of the workers in these offices will not return from their homes.

On the subject: What is the cheapest accommodation to rent in different cities in the USA

Dacha and coworking

As for the post-Soviet countries, the picture is different. Many families have a small apartment in the city and a plot of land with a house outside the city. Many dacha owners have rebuilt them in order to live there in winter, but not all are ready to consider them as permanent residence.

There is another problem - the quality of the Internet connection. Outside of big cities, it may not match the challenges of teleworking.

“The number of people who continue to work remotely will be large after the pandemic, but the need for communication will not disappear anywhere,” predicts Alexander Puzanov, general director of the Moscow Institute for Urban Economics. "A compromise between working from home and working in the office can be, for example, coworking."

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