Back to Blog November 19, 2020

Suite City Living

Barbara Lawlor

One outcome of the global pandemic has been a heightened reflectiveness and thoughtfulness about our individual priorities, including an examination of where and how we live (and in some cases, with whom!).

Inevitably, this process has extended to a review of urban, suburban and rural residential options – something that is highlighted in the Globe and Mail’s recent series of articles on the ways to improve our cities in the aftermath of COVID-19. While there has been some pandemic-induced migration away from cities, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest they are – or ever will be – permanently hollowed out. To paraphrase author Mark Twain, “News of their death has been greatly exaggerated.”

That’s certainly something the experts contributing to the Globe have made clear: The debate about urban improvement is an exciting one – particularly to those of us who deeply believe in the appeal of cities and the condominiums that make them accessible and vibrant.

There are a number of factors to consider when looking at our urban future.

For one thing, exciting advances have been made in developing vaccines against the Corona virus. By mid-to late-2021, these vaccines are expected to be widely available. We have also made strides in understanding the benefits of wearing masks, distancing and other routine measures to help manage contagion.

Then there is the reality that a great many jobs will return – even part time – to the office environments that allow seamless collaboration and engagement among colleagues. That means the delights of commuting to the office will be a very real consideration once again.

But the overwhelming reason why we at Baker believe in the future of cities is human nature: We are social creatures who seek connection, community and congregation. The powerful attraction to all forms of shared social experience is all too evident in the ongoing struggle to keep people apart throughout the pandemic. It reflects a significant pent-up demand for restaurants, concerts, theatre, movies, gyms – all activities at the heart of urban and human life.

If those reasons for confidence in the long-term future of condominium living and the pre-construction condo market are not sufficient, consider also the prospect of significant increases in immigration to Canada. Although the number of new permanent residents declined sharply in 2020 because of embassy and visa office closures, those numbers will be more than made up in coming years. In fact, the federal government has recently taken steps to make it easier for foreign students and residents of Hong Kong to come to Canada. It’s also worth noting that in the face of political changes in Hong Kong, at least some of the 300,000 plus Canadian citizens living there may contemplate an imminent return.

Also consider the fact that developers of new condo projects have the ability to incorporate some of the design features for which demand surfaced during COVID lockdowns. This includes a den or some form of workspace and sliding doors that can easily help to reconfigure live/work areas. As for parks and green spaces, these are already included in the plans for all new high-rise developments.

Given that pre-construction condos typically take three to five years for completion, there’s little doubt they will represent an even better investment in city living. Yes, thing will have changed by then – but things are always changing. In the words of CIBC deputy chief economist, Benjamin Tal, ‘When the fog clears, things will look very familiar to us all.”

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