There’s nothing like global a pandemic to make us all take stock of our lives. It’s probably fair to say that over the last year, most of us will have taken a moment to consider our personal situation, either because we feel thankful that we have been able to navigate a way through or because Covid has impacted our lives in one form or another.
One clear trend appears to be a migration from cities and urban areas to quieter rural and coastal locations. In turn, this increased demand is pushing up property prices; some might say a rather strange and probably unexpected outcome during a global recession.
Fresh air and solitude
Whilst Chichester is still a City, it is one of the smallest in the country and sandwiched between countryside and coastline, it offers the best of both worlds for those still needing to commute or requiring a corporate base whilst also seeking the fresh air and solitude of open space.
Speaking to colleagues and friends, it appears Chichester is seeing the effect of this migration with estate agents and schools both reporting an upturn in enquiries. In the first lockdown period, local schools noted an increase in the number of in-year transfers, primarily from the Greater London and Surrey/London borders. Parents commenting to headteachers that the enforced time at home had given them time to reflect on the future for their youngsters and the realisation that the price of a 2-bed flat in London equates to a relatively substantial property with gardens and access to open space here.
Increase in property prices
When combined with the stimulus of the temporary increase in stamp duty threshold, this relocation out of the cities is pushing up property prices and adding pace to the local market. But is this an issue?
For years, the residents of Cornwall have rallied against second home owners and bemoaned the lack of affordable housing stock for the next generation to purchase as the DFLs (Down From London) have flocked to the west country. But on the flip side, the new businesses, creative hubs and skill set that are now features of the Cornish economy are in some part, directly related to that influx of high skilled, entrepreneurial, cash rich investors. As an aside, it’s hard to imagine the home owners of Cornwall taking issue with their house prices increasing.
A stimulus for rural areas?
So, perhaps there can be some long-term benefit for Chichester and similar coastal and rural areas, with a local stimulus of ideas, investment and skills. For some areas, it may even mean a return to viability of shops, pubs and local services that have suffered in recent decades as the trend has seen younger generations moving into Cities.
These migrations and relocations do tend to be rather cyclical and it may be that, like the work from home revolution, some of the effects of the pandemic on our economy, turn out to be temporary and in time we will move back to cities, keen for the urban hustle and bustle. Only time will tell, but for now, it’s nice to live and work somewhere others wish to call home.