Suffering from COVID-19, catch-phrase-fatigue yet? I’m pretty sure it’s a thing. Perhaps it’s just a case of 2020-itis kicking in? Seriously though, the marketing execs – who normally hang out in ad agency boardrooms, but are now working from home – must be in Heaven right now.
We know without a doubt (because we’ve heard it often enough), we must wash our hands, keep our distance, stay home when sick, and don’t cross the Queensland borders to help stop the spread…oh and of course, we’re all in this together…
Arguably though, the one catchphrase that rings the most true and we have no choice but to embrace, like it or not, is “The new normal”.
Admittedly, it’s somewhat tricky to entirely envision what “the new normal” will be, particularly as we lift restrictions and honestly, it appears many have decided to resume “business as usual” (with a few inescapable reminders of how the first half of the year went down).
But that hasn’t stopped forecasters, social demographers and experts all over the globe predicting what living in a post-pandemic world will mean, especially for future generations.
The way we work, play, commute, consume, conduct business and yes…where and how we live…are all expected to change significantly.
So let’s pause for a moment and consider…what “The New Normal” might look like for our wide brown land and its infamous property markets, beyond this train-wreck of a year…
Keep Your Distance
One of the things we spoke about in an article from last month, was the argument that Australia has escaped this pandemic relatively unscathed, due to our more “expansive” way of life.
Australia’s average population density is just 3 people per square kilometre, whereas in the likes of New York City – one of the locations that’s seen the most rampant spread of COVID-19 – higher density urban life is essential to pack in the estimated 10,194 people per square kilometre.
The same comparison can be drawn for major cities in the much more densely populated European countries where the virus seemed to take hold the most virulently.
Could it be? Is it possible? Does being more spread out, “help stop the spread” more? (#sorrynotsorry)
Interestingly, state planning around housing and infrastructure in our fair nation pre-Coronavirus, was trending toward the way of satellite cities; communities purpose-built around existing transport networks (rail in particular) and multi-faceted industry hubs, in a higher density urban setting.
During the beginning of this century and then again last decade, we watched high rise towers increasingly pop up to alter the iconic skylines of major cities along our eastern seaboard, as two big apartment construction booms swept across the nation.
With people working longer hours at the office, more children engaged in away-from-home activities and a rise in the cafe culture that saw dining out become second nature, a lot of us decided downsizing looked desirable.
For many, the iconic sprawling McMansion on a large suburban block began to symbolise a dying dream. Not to mention a tedious, time zapping money pit due to the additional upkeep and maintenance demanded by a bigger residence and grounds.
People from all walks of life started to think less might indeed be more, and embraced apartment living, from Millennials to Boomers and all other generations in between.
Room to live, work and play
Fast forward to a time none of us could have seen coming, and it’s not just town planning for the future that might need a rethink, but also the way we design, build and invest in local housing.
Chaos and destruction often causes us to pause, reflect and reconsider how and what we are creating. Those who shape our landscape through the design of buildings in which we live, work and play, will no doubt be pondering all sorts of creative solutions to the post-COVID19 lifestyle we must adapt to.
Months of confinement in our homes have illustrated where a few “holes” might be in the stock standard type of modern housing we’ve been building.
Aside from asking the obvious – is smaller really better? – while parents try to work and supervise children schooling from home and everyone is stuck under the one roof for days on end – numerous flaws are being exposed in things like modern design and layout.
Once desirable, vast cavernous spaces crafted for fashionable, open plan living and entertaining for instance, are not quite as functional when you’re searching for a bit of peace and quiet to take that Zoom video conferencing call with your boss.
And that postage stamp sized yard or terrace, doesn’t make for an ideal sanity saver when children need to stretch their legs and run off all that built up energy. Or adults fo that matter.
Further challenging traditional design frameworks for residential property of course, will be the various economic shocks we’re yet to see play out in entirety, such as slowing markets, a rapid increase in online trade and of course, rising unemployment.
And as restrictions ease on the one hand, inviting employees to get “back to business”, whilst become tighter around how those work spaces are occupied and shared on the other; some employers are considering whether they even need to bring employees back into commercial buildings.
Westpac Group, the nation’s second largest bank, is one big business that may permanently alter how and where its people work, after seeing productivity increase among its thousands of high-paid tech staff as they delivered from home-based teams.
Another consideration for the future of our housing markets will be transport and infrastructure, with people less inclined to want to sit on crowded trains or buses for the morning commute to work, and therefore more likely to seek out walkable and “cycle-able” suburbs.
Wait and see
Given this has been the most unpredictable turn of events we’ve seen sweep the entire globe, with such monumental impact in all areas of our lives, since the last Great Depression, it’s impossible to say with any certainty what the future will bring.
As always, the best advice we can give our clients is to always ensure you are investing in property that’s right for you. Namely, for your future requirements and intentions, and at the right time according to your specific circumstances. And most importantly, make sure you have all those little financial ducks in a row!