Is working from home a paradigm shift, or a temporary measure? What are the urban planning implications?

Will offices downsize and go virtual? Is the newly widespread practice of working from home merely temporary? What are the long-term impacts on the demand for office space? The answers to these questions are obviously unknown at present. It’s worth noting the many ‘for lease’ signs for commercial office space posted around Vancouver.

With the advent of widescale teleworking, case by case, companies may return to their former ways, choose not to renew leases on commercial real estate, decide to downsize, or relocate completely. Employees may choose to move out of the urban centers to the suburbs or beyond, if working from home becomes ‘the new normal’ for employment.

At the Public Hearing on January 21, 2021, planning staff justified their proposed significant upzoning of 2nd Avenue for what they said was “much-needed new employment space” (on the sun-blocking south side of the street, between Yukon and Quebec). Yet staff failed to present evidence to back their claims. Council then went on to approve the measure with a 9-1 vote in favour. We mention this to make an important point, as follows.

Still in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis it is difficult to know exactly how key factors influencing urban planning will change once things settle down, post-pandemic. Despite this, the planning department is moving forward with many aggressive planning initiatives set in motion by a decade under the control of the developer-and-union-funded Vision Vancouver party under Gregor Robertson. We all (including our elected officials) need to take note of how decision-making is being done at City Hall and question or challenge the prevailing assumptions.

We’ve included a number of links to articles below that look at the issues facing commercial office space and teleworking.

Resources

https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/office-workers-home-covid-19-1.5711334

http://angusreid.org/coronavirus-work-from-home/

https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2020/11/24/people-working-from-home-will-change-torontos-downtown-long-term-heres-what-to-do-with-all-that-vacant-office-space.html

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/mar/13/covid-19-could-cause-permanent-shift-towards-home-working

https://nypost.com/2020/04/20/remote-working-during-pandemic-may-lessen-demand-for-office-space/

https://www.regus.com/work-us/en-us/revolutionising-how-to-sell-workspace/

NYT: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/04/upshot/work-office-from-home.html


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