Changing work, commuting patterns impact on urban planning, real estate

Changes in work and commuting patterns triggered by the coronavirus pandemic are expected to impact the urban planning, construction, and real estate sectors.

“The surge in homeworking and reduced use of public transport are expected to change how consumers will work and travel. In turn, these changes are set to have a broader impact on the urban planning and construction sectors,” Euromonitor International senior consultant Justinas Liuima said.

Liuima said the growing popularity of working from home could have a “knock-on effect” on the real estate market, with a shift in interest from more expensive major cities towards less expensive secondary and tertiary cities near the main metropolitan areas.

He said growth in suburban and outer city region populations may also provide new expansion opportunities for the construction industry as it could accelerate demand for housing in suburban areas.

In the long term, Liuima said this could also result in a structural demand shift in the commercial property segment, as office and retail developers would follow the consumers, and invest in new properties in suburban areas.

However, a shift towards suburban areas creates new challenges for cities and city economies, he said.

“The population shift from the major metropolitan areas would result in overcapacity in existing transportation and social infrastructure, increasing the infrastructure cost burden. At the same time, cities are very likely to face declining tax revenues as workers and businesses would move to other areas,” he added.

Liuima said many cities were already witnessing this problem even before the pandemic, with the coronavirus acting as an “additional catalyst”.

“As more challenges unfold in the future, cities will have to find economical and sustainable ways to adapt to changing commuting and working patterns. Some cities have already started to repurpose streets,” he added.

Liuima cited as an example pop-up bicycle lanes introduced in Paris, Berlin, and Bogot, which are expected to make cities more attractive for living and help them to adapt to the changing mobility needs.

He said the large drop in public transport usage will be a major financial blow to public transport providers and cities.

However, such a situation may open up new business opportunities for companies providing other modes of shared mobility, such as bike/scooter rentals or car sharing, Liuima said.

“The popularity of personal cars for daily commuting is also expected to increase in the medium term,” he added. “Personal cars will not replace public transportation completely, especially in megacities. However, they are becoming an increasingly attractive alternative for commuters in smaller cities or traveling longer distances.”

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