An article in Fast Company, “Zoom towns are exploding in the West”, reports on migration between large cities in the western United States and small towns close to tourist sites, ski resorts or natural parks, the so-called gateway communities.
Zoomtowns, the name of the new phenomenon, references the boomtowns of old with the impact of the pandemic on the possibility of working from home or anywhere with a reasonable internet connection.
The movement of people who can afford to do so because they can afford to, or because they work for companies with long-term work-from-home policies, puts pressure on host communities due to gentrification: towns and smaller cities often lack the services and infrastructure required to meet the new and growing demand, property prices rise rapidly, and many of the people who traditionally lived in them, in many cases serving nearby tourist attractions, are virtually driven out by the price increases, forcing them to move away from the places where they work.
About 60% of US workers are now teleworking, fully or partially, and in many cases they will continue to do so for a long time. On the one hand, there is evidence that, even if the pandemic subsides, the virus is going to be with us for a long time in natural reservoirs created by vaccine deniers or by migration from places where vaccines have not impacted. On the other hand, there is evidence that remote working can be further optimized as better practices and tools are implemented, while employers and employees improve better models and habits.
Can we expect to see zoomtowns in other parts of the world? The question depends, fundamentally, on the volatility of real estate markets: areas where rent is predominant over property ownership, as is the case in Northern California, are usually subject to faster fluctuations in mobility, while other markets tend to be more conservative and require broader forecasts and visibility of the future in order to make a decision. In any case, everything seems to point to major changes in the future, something that both companies and workers should start to take into consideration.
This post was previously published on Medium.com.
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