Do not expect the epidemic’s dramatic remote-work shift to be permanent

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Eastbound traffic on Highway 33 on April 30, 2021, near Warning Corner in Prince Edward County, Ontario.

Fred Lum / The Globe and Mail

The dunes and vineyards of Prince Edward County have attracted Toronto weekends for decades. Sharon Armitage has often been his real estate agent. He sold to political pundit David Frum and toilet writer Jamie Kennedy.

But Ms. Armitage has not seen anything resembling the “avalanche” of the townspeople in the past 12 months. It is not just wine moguls (“grapes”) or wealthy retirees any more. Young families who can work remotely during the epidemic have skyrocketed prices by more than 30 percent since last year.

“It’s crazy here!” Ms. Armitage said. “But it’s crazy everywhere.”

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He is right on both scores: What is happening in the county is part of a familiar trend in Canada and around the world that has left urban people expensive for leafy suburbs and small towns due to this year’s working revolution.

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Now the question is whether the same real estate will see a boom in flights coming from cities, and new favorite predicts. As vaccination brings Canada closer to the end of the epidemic, despite a crushing third wave, some economists and urbanites are skeptical. They believe that we have already reached the high-water mark of remote work and that some snaps are inevitable back then, as offices reopen and people relive memories of urban living.

Whether they are right, will help determine the fate of communities, the look of middle-class life and billions in home equity for decades to come. Ms. side with skepticism. That “wait to come”, when some madness will subside.

“I didn’t see how this could continue,” he said. “My son keeps trying to get back into the market, and I just say, ‘Wait, Freddy.”

Some forecasters are still placing bets on a more permanent system of white collar – between country-states as a whole. This year, sun-drenched Greece began allowing migrants to reduce their income tax by half for seven years in order to lure unaffected office workers. “If you can work from anywhere, why not work from Greece?” Gave a promotional slogan.

Ireland is hoping that the same forces will reshuffle people within the country’s borders. The national government recently planned to revitalize rural areas by encouraging office staff to relocate from Dublin, to provide better broadband and financial support to local authorities to help them create remote work centers. declare.

But these incentive packages also suggest limitations to work from home. If Ron Leons, an assistant professor of economics at Trinity College Dublin, said, if a flight from Irish cities was taking place systematically, “they wouldn’t have to encourage it.”

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A rigid cap on labor mobility after the epidemic would be the office’s dogmatic persistence. Giant firms such as Google and HSBC have announced that they plan to experiment with a hybrid work model in the aftermath of the epidemic, with employees dividing their time between office and home. Canadian tech leaders, including BlackBerry CEO John Chen, say they expect hybrid models to be common.

This lines up with the preferences of the people surveyed after the survey: Statistics Canada recently found that among new telecolors, nearly 40 percent have half an hour of work in their home and half out after the epidemic, far more than any other option Wanted to spend. Only 15 percent said they wanted to work full-time from their kitchen table.

Bosses are no less enthusiastic about a complete distant future. Many still believe in the creative and team-building power of communal brick-and-mortar locations. In a recent paper, economists Jose Maria Barrero, Steven Davis, and Nicholas Bloom drew on their own survey of thousands of Americans to show that employers had only a fifth to complete work from home after the epidemic. have hope.

This still represents a huge increase on life before COVID, when Americans spent only 5 percent of their work time at home. In that sense, the remote work revolution appears to be here. But a hybrid model – whether it lands on the office one, two, or three days a week – will still be increasingly limited to where employees are able to stay. The laptop jockey who answered Greece’s call could yet call himself back from Santorini for bi-weekly meetings at a Mississauga office park.

Less frequent traffic can still allow office workers to venture outside city centers than before. The French newspaper Le Monde reported in March that young Parisian families are trending towards smaller cities, with occasional visits to work with a member of the couple.

Stones can be different in Canada. While most Parisians live in apartments and have easy access to Heathland by train – “round trips“The lifestyle is both attractive and viable – Canadians have fewer reasons and fewer means to manage that type of shuttle.

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According to Statistics Canada, approximately 60 percent of Canadian townspeople already live in homes. (The figure is 57 percent, including semiprecious and roghouses in condensed Toronto.) The relative spaciousness of the nation’s urban housing may reduce the urge to seek greener pastures in some rural upbringing.

Meanwhile, high-speed trains zip between Bordeaux and Paris in more than two hours, but from Prince Edward County’s wine country to Toronto – about a third a trip – as far as at least the car Takes long hours. For many people, making that trip a few times a week would be prohibitive.

With mass vaccination against COVID-19 on the horizon, Toronto-based urban theorist Richard Florida already sees signs of the city’s population rebounding from its slight epidemic. His friends who left New York for the heat and space of southern Florida this year are now saying, “It was a four-month vacation.” They recall the excitement and amenities of big city living, returning full force with music and restaurants.

“I think you’re going to see this summer in the United States, a big return to the cities,” he said. “I call it ‘roaring 2020s’.” “

Toronto is particularly immune to remote-working reckoning because of how central it is to the nation’s economy, argued Mr. Florida, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. As the epicenter of Canada’s financial, entertainment and tech sectors, Toronto is like LA, San Francisco and New York rolled into one, he said, and represents about 20 percent of Canadian GDP. (New York, by contrast equals 10 percent of US GDP.)

“Florida doesn’t have a lot of options for life,” Mr. Florida said.

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Another driver of population growth and red-hot real estate markets in Canadian cities will also return after the epidemic: immigration. Canada welcomed nearly 180,000 permanent residents last year, the lowest number since 1998, largely due to travel restrictions. But the federal government has committed to increasing immigration levels in the coming years, with a goal of more than 400,000 annual newcomers between 2021 and 2023.

New arrivals in the country will almost certainly continue to work remotely even in a large-scale cities such as Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, because of the presence of cultural communities, and because many immigrants seek employment, which cannot be demonstrated. Can Home, said Carl Gomez, chief economist and head of market analytics with the Costar Group, a commercial real estate information company.

This would lead to a large-scale postpodemic exodus, meanwhile, the current trend of Canadian city dwellers to leave for the outer suburbs and surrounding small towns. Prior to COVID-19, approximately 50,000 residents of the Greater Toronto Area left each year for other parts of the province, according to a recent report by the Center for Urban Research and Land Development at Ryerson University. Mr. Gomez said the number of house sales accelerated the flight to cheaper parts of southern Ontario, as the epidemic intensified it and that it stands to the point that more and more people go to catapult five days a week. Will be willing to travel twice a week. But a slight sub-suburban drift hardly means the end of geography as we know it.

Many cities will have the “donut effect” of a slightly lower density city coupled with an increase in upskirt suburban fringes, whose argument of Drs. Bloom did, which was Stanford University economics professor and co-author of the working-at-home paper. It signifies a real change, but nothing as dramatic as the idea of ​​”working from anywhere”. Most people, thanks to far-flung work policies, will not land in Greece or in places like counties, as suburbs.

Housing prices in big cities, meanwhile, will likely return to those 10 or 20 years ago, where Drs. Bloom said – hardly “cataclysmic” results. Eventually, even the cheaper home town may begin to move some people back from the suburbs, tow with their laptops.

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