by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The coronavirus, widespread quarantines, an unprecedented self-induced recession, and unchecked rioting, looting, and protesting — all in a presidential-election year — are radically disrupting American habits and behavior.
Rents, home prices, and office-occupancy rates in major cities, especially on the two coasts, are dropping fast. Techies and young professionals have discovered that they can work from home without paying sky-high housing costs in order to be close to the office.
Those more fortunate wonder why they should get bogged down with commutes and urban traffic — or navigate city sidewalks amid homelessness, crime, racial tensions, and urban unrest — when they can make as much money while staying distant in quieter landscapes.
Some react by moving to quieter, low-tax states such as Idaho, Tennessee, or Utah. Others flee New York City or the Bay Area/Silicon Valley corridor to upstate New York or California’s Central Valley. Who would have ever believed that housing prices in picturesque San Francisco would be falling while housing prices in pedestrian Sacramento and Fresno are soaring?
During the recent urban renaissance, young people had flocked to cities to be where the action was. Now, do they want to deactivate and find some independence and peace from the relentless chaos?
Worries about COVID-19 in high-density cities and unreliable city services add to the unhappiness. Residents want less dependence on mass transit and elevator living. Constant human contact is seen more as risky than desirous.
Gun sales are at record highs. When some cities take steps to defund police and some soften bail laws, citizens quietly go to the local gun store and stock up on ammunition. Many of the people who have never before owned firearms are no longer clamoring for gun control.