As the old real estate saying goes, “The three most important considerations when choosing a home are location, location, and location.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly turned that saying on its ear, as the internet demonstrates that for certain people (largely middle class) in paperless and product-less industries, location has at least temporarily become unimportant. A worker may Zoom in to work from any wired-in home location.
This retreat to home of a newfound middle-, or Zoom, class has come at significant cost to lower income workers. These cleaners, cabbies, fast food employees, and the like have lost jobs in emptied-out commercial and industrial centres that no longer need their services. Our well-established understandings of “location” have been turned upside down, both for the location of the work itself, and for the location from which it can be performed.
The final impact of this location changes is falling heavily on those with low- and no- incomes as, contrary to expectations, the largest cost of living — shelter — continues to rise in spite of the pandemic.
Whatever fragments of “location, location, location” remain temporarily relevant during the pandemic, a new challenge will soon arise for urban planners, geographers and analysts.
An increasingly wired world has show-cased the flexibility the Zoom class may bring to work in non-traditional locations. What becomes then, of all workers once anchored to downtown? Where will the new location, location, location be for the Zoom class and low-income service industry workers? How essential will public transit be in serving fragmented workplaces, rather than transporting everyone to relatively few work hubs such as downtown business districts? And without expensive travel corridors, will mixed income neighbourhoods become essential, regardless of who might consider that either socially agreeable or distasteful?
Dealing with these issues and more, have a look at this article from Australia’s ABC News: The hidden impact of the coronavirus pandemic is rising urban inequality