Las Vegas suburbs, courtesy of


More urbanites in the U.S. and cities around the world are considering a move to rural areas, a migration that could have lasting impacts on the world’s major hubs. 

In a Harris Poll conducted in late April, 39 percent of urban dwellers in the U.S. said that the pandemic moved them to consider relocating to less dense areas. A Redfin poll in mid-May found that more than half of respondents who lived in New York City, Seattle, San Francisco, and Boston would move if work-from-home became permanent, while 1 in 4 said the shift to permanently working from home was a real possibility. 

Many looking to move to the suburbs or even farther cite a more permanent transition to remote work, coupled with more affordable options in rural areas, as reason to leave the city. Some polls point to a desire to continue social distancing as a lifestyle, while others attribute the shift to a “massive self-reliance movement” that simultaneously protects families from the pandemic while allowing them to explore living off-the-grid. Outside of New York City, real estate brokers describe fierce competition for homes in less densely populated areas north of the city and on Long Island, despite grim predictions for the U.S. economy and housing market. 

Some demographers said the migration from dense cities was in motion before the outbreak even began, especially from those with an extremely high cost of living. Ed Glaeser, an Urban Economics professor at Harvard University, points to Berlin, Detroit and other cities that have permanently lost industries and even a part of their identities after major population shocks. Still, he and other planners argue that cities remain invaluable in what they bring to societies in the form of collaboration and culture. 


A Rise in Remote Work Could Lead to a New Suburban Boom – Zillow – 5/13/2020. A Zillow analysis finds 46 percent of current households have a spare bedroom that could be used as an office. But that percentage drops off by more than 10 points in dense, expensive metros such as Los Angeles, New York, San Jose, San Francisco and San Diego, where far fewer homes have spare rooms.   

Urban Exodus? First Signs Of A Move Out Of The World’s Cities – World Crunch – 6/8/2020. In the UK, estate agents are experiencing a rise in potential homeowners looking for properties in market towns and fishing villages as either second homes or permanent residences. Inverness in the Scottish Highlands is the location that has seen the highest increase in searches from last year.

This week has undone the work of decades – National Review – 6/2/2020. Regardless of whether Trump or Biden is elected in November, it’s easy to envision the following happening: Americans will flee the cities as they did in the post-1968 era. Thirty years of great progress for cities will be undone by the events of one spring. People will move to suburbs and exurbs. A lot more families will buy guns. Gun owners vote heavily Republican. People in less densely populated areas vote Republican too.

Vilnius Shows How the Pandemic Is Already Remaking Cities – The Atlantic – 6/9/2020. The coronavirus has already produced some tangible changes. In Athens, Bogotá, and Milan, for example, streets have been retrofitted into bicycle lanes, and sidewalks have been widened to give people more ways to commute while also practicing social distancing. In Rotterdam and San Francisco, public spaces, such as walkways, plazas, and parking spaces, have been converted into retail spaces so that hard-hit businesses can serve their customers more safely. Parks in Toronto and New York City now feature social-distancing circles to prevent overcrowding. Although some of these changes, such as those being implemented in Rotterdam, are time-limited, others, including the sidewalk expansions, could be permanent.


Bob Confer @bobconfer on Twitter, 6/12/2020:  Assessing risks of close quarters living/commuting/work in Covid, potential for unchecked crime, and realization that work-from-home cuts down on pricey downtown rents and palatial properties, 2020 will cause many large economic entities to further their exodus from urban centers

Mark Toro @MarkToro on Twitter, 6/12/2020: .@RetailProphet: “For commercial developers this will mean reimagining cities in the suburbs; mixed use communities that offer the vibrancy, variety and energy of their urban counterparts but with a focus on liveability, affordability and sustainability.”

Jean Ball MIPM @JeanBall1 on Twitter, 6/20/2020: Many urban dwellers have gazed in awe at their newly clean cities over the last few months. But 3; Copenhagen, Oakland & Mexico City are leading the way in making such transformations permanent. How?

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