How COVID has changed our communities
By Jennifer Cooper, Account Executive
Communities are continuously evolving. What people thought they wanted and needed to thrive at the start of 2020 is not what they would have thought of as important in 1990, and when COVID-19 swept into the UK earlier this year, it started to highlight a whole range of additional community challenges which didn’t exist in the same way before. From suddenly needing the space and facilities to work from home, to staying connected, healthy and well when we are physically isolated or no longer working, and the impact of the ensuing economic crisis, we are in the midst of a sea change from which we will never quite turn back.
With so many people working from home and more transactions than ever being done online, future communities will rely more on digital technologies and the need to be connected will be greater – super fast broadband will be an absolute requirement when people are looking at new homes. More people will continue to work from home rather than return to a five day office week, and we can also expect traditional sole occupancy offices to shift to shared work spaces. This could perhaps see more opportunity for town and city centre housing to be brought forward, and with a recognised need for more housing built specifically for older people, this could feed that need and their appetite to move further into towns and cities to access services and facilities. However, flexibility of these homes will be key as tech savvy generations begin to age and our reliance on online solutions increases even further. Fears for health could also draw our ageing population back out of higher density areas in the future, and it could be that retirement villages with facilities on hand are more appealing, but intergenerational interaction has so many health benefits that it must be enabled to continue in some form.
While everyone has been confined to their homes for months of lockdown in varying degrees, the need for a focus on health and well-being has never been greater. Joe Wicks helped the nation keep moving, and alongside his YouTube channel sits a wide range of other fitness gurus providing tutorials on every exercise you can think of. This has been helpful to many, but with lockdown slowly easing in most places, our communities are enjoying getting outside more than ever. Rural beauty spots and coastal retreats have been inundated with visitors, and this really shows the need for our communities to have more access to great outdoor spaces where they can enjoy exercising or relaxing near where they live.
Neighbours have been talking again, and for the first time in years streets of people know each other’s names, thanks to helpful neighbour schemes set up in the midst of the health crisis. Harnessing this community spirit will be crucial to achieve all sorts of aspirations in the future, not least for encouraging communities to do more for themselves – a key goal for local authorities.
With this uplift in community spirit and the huge environmental benefits of less people travelling, we have seen echoes of wartime and it almost feels like we have come full circle. But much has changed. We need to keep moving, innovating and adapting – and really involve our communities so that the places we design for future generations are flexible enough to help them thrive in this new world.
To chat about how you can build on this community momentum, get in touch via [email protected].