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Sustainable Living

Could COVID-19 cure our attachment to city living?

There’s nothing like being stuck at home to help you see the shortcomings of your living arrangements. 

It could be a question of size, or privacy, or lack of outdoor space.  It may be the special claustrophobia that comes with sharing space with stir-crazy family members who are each experiencing their own distinct flavours of cabin fever.  Or it could be as simple as getting sick of the place and galvanizing those aspirations and dreams of making a change.

One positive that could come from all this, is the chance for us to reset our thinking on where we need to live, and what we want our home to be.

Now employers are discovering that staff working remotely me is actually a viable option for their businesses, many of us are working from home for the first time.  This will inevitably lead us to consider where we need to live, and where we’d like to live.

In my experience, this is one of the core questions at the heart of housing affordability.  Do we all need to live in the city?  And what kind of life do I want the home life for me and my family to be?

The NSW Government’s surge of infrastructure investment has helped Sydney to start growing properly again.  This is bringing Sydney’s outer suburbs, where much of the city’s greenfield land is, closer to our CBDs.  The lessons learnt during the COVID-19 crisis, may lead Sydneysiders to unshackle themselves from thinking they need to live in certain parts of the city to have a good life.

The popularity of city living puts all sorts of strains on our lives.  The cost of buying and renting close to cities, the congestion, the lack of access to open space, and the associated needs to concentrate essential services, all have a big impact on our lives.  COVID-19 has given us another thing to add to this list: the dangers of high-density living in a health crisis, and the restrictions on our lives that occur to avoid those dangers.

Right now, those of my friends who are happiest working from home are the ones who have more room to move, both indoors and out – especially those with children.  My friends and colleagues are also shifting away from the idea that the luckiest of us live in city apartments, moving towards the epiphany that better lifestyles can be found in parts of the city where we can literally spread out – both within our homes, and our neighbourhoods.

Liveability researchers and programs like the World Health Organisation’s Healthy Cities initiative have been telling us this for years.  Wouldn’t it be great if, as a result of the necessary restrictions we’re living with, courtesy of COVID-19, we wake up to the fact that they were right?

Janelle Goulding is a housing affordability expert with more than 30 years’ experience in creating solutions to make Sydney homes more affordable.  Janelle is general manager of Thrive Homes.

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