Rethinking Where to Live: The COVID Impact

People are valuing affordable healthcare, internet connectivity, and eco-friendly practices above all else.

Residential neighborhood, aerial view, Baden Wurttemberg, Germany.

If the coronavirus pandemic has got you thinking about a change of scenery, you aren’t alone. As the virus continues to spread, wreaking unprecedented havoc on public health and society at large, many have been forced to stay closer to home and to reconsider what’s important when choosing where to live.

In an eight-nation survey conducted by the Oliver Wyman Forum in June 2020, more than half of all respondents across the surveyed countries valued free or subsidized healthcare, internet connectivity infrastructure, and eco-friendly energy management as the most important services that should be available after the pandemic. Access to free or subsidized healthcare continues to be valued by countries with universal healthcare, including France, whose healthcare system is consistently ranked among the best globally

These prioritizations are already beginning to have an impact on policymaking. In Germany, where respondents were most receptive to eco-friendly practices, the government may press forward with incentivizing companies to reduce their carbon footprints in their recovery plans.

In all countries surveyed other than Spain, urban residents were more likely to report changes in their criteria for where to live than people living in suburban or rural areas. With 30 percent across urban, suburban, and rural communities, China had the highest overall rate of changes in criteria among respondents. Only 10 percent of those in the UK said they hand changed their criteria – the lowest among the eight nations.

Interestingly for a crisis that has inflicted some of the worst suffering on dense urban areas, there’s little evidence of groupthink among residents of major cities. New York City respondents reported the most change, with more than 40% altering their criteria due to COVID-19. One in three urbanites in Beijing and Shanghai reported changes in their criteria compared with roughly one in five in Paris, Singapore, and Los Angeles. 

Overall, at least one in 10 respondents in every country reported changes in their criteria for where to live due to COVID. The rate was one in five for Singapore and the United States, and nearly one in three for China.  

These findings suggest the pandemic is likely to have a lasting impact both on where we live, and how.