On the other hand, when we do commute, congestion may be worse in coming months if sufficient public transport users switch to driving due to worries about safe distancing on trains, trams, buses and ferries. Don’t be surprised if more people, especially tenants (who can change locations more easily than home owners), opt to be within cycling/walking distance of work.
There are also suggestions that the lockdown will change accommodation tastes. Supposedly we will want bigger homes so household members can have more personal space. ABS social trends data, however, shows most Australian households have either sufficient or surplus accommodation. Indeed, a desire for a good choice of private space within a home may well see a push against open-plan living, a feature of many larger homes.
Ongoing restrictions or societal appetite for indoor social gatherings will probably cause us to spend more of our leisure time in the open than before. Suburbs with good access to parks, cycle tracks and other outdoor recreation such as tennis courts, outdoor pools and basketball courts may well be more attractive than otherwise similar places.
The CBD high-rise residential sector may struggle in coming months due to its reliance on missing overseas students. The sector will eventually recover if government plans to allow the return of international students subject to hotel quarantining on arrival come to fruition. Indeed, if Australia continues to demonstrate internationally it is a safe harbour from the pandemic, the recovery in student numbers may be faster than expected.
However, there may also be a drift of CBD building use from business to residential purposes if demand for office space weakens. Buildings may be reassigned to residential, which may worsen the residential oversupply problem. It seems the high-rise sector just can’t get a break from bad news.
More generally, it is important not to exaggerate the impact of the pandemic. Yes, there will be lifestyle adjustments that may be for the long term, but many shifts will be short-lived so investors should not focus too much on those when making their decisions. Ultimately, investment is always for the long term. The best planning assumption will be that we will eventually return to a similar lifestyle that we had last year.