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The media has been churning out stories about the exodus of people from cities, to escape crowding and coronavirus. People, they say, are rushing to the suburbs.
New Yorker Peter Goodman dissents. He believes that city life will bounce back in time. New York City already is healthier than most other parts of the nation, though mass transit has not yet recovered from the pandemic. Everything ground to a halt in mid-March, and city life is only now beginning to resume, but with masks and social distancing.
Goodman argues that “Cities are the Engines of Democracy, Innovation, and Growth and Schools Play a Major Role.”
As cultural life revives, so will cities.
Ambitious young people flock to them for exposure to museums, dance, concerts, theater, and civic life and diversity of people and experiences.
An interesting article on a real estate website called Curbed.com says that the “urban exodus” story is mostly a myth. True, there has been flight from two of the most expensive places in the U.S—San Francisco and Manhattan (but not Brooklyn!)—but the flow out of cities has not accelerated.
But a nationwide, pandemic- or protest-induced urban-to-suburban migration taking place on a scale that impacts both urban and suburban housing markets in a measurable way? There is zero empirical evidence to support such a trend. None. Nothing. Zero.
Earlier this month, real-estate-listings giant Zillow published an exhaustive study examining every conceivable housing-market data point related to cities and suburbia to see if there are major divergences that suggest an urban-to-suburban migration trend.
Are pending home sales between urban and suburban areas different now than they were before the pandemic? They aren’t!
Are suburban homes selling more quickly than homes in urban areas? Nope!
Are suburban homes selling above their list price at a higher rate than urban homes? Not at all!
Are urban homes seeing price cuts at a higher rate than suburban homes? If anything, the opposite!
Are home valuations accelerating faster in suburban areas than in urban areas? Urban zip codes have a slight edge!
Are suburban home listings getting a larger share of search traffic relative to urban areas now than they were last year? The suburban share is actually down 0.2 percentage points!
There is a German saying: Stadtluft macht frei (“urban air makes you free”). It has been true for centuries. It will be true again.