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Stuart Penklis

Head of Residential

Stuart Penklis was appointed Head of Residential in April 2017.

Hyper-Local Living - The Return of The Urban Village

4th June 2020

Here's an interesting finding for you from research we've recently undertaken: 37% of Mirvac customers would be tempted to reconsider where they live if they could work from home more frequently.

What was even more interesting to me was the strong discrepancy in terms of where people would relocate to, given the choice: only 13% would move closer to their workplace, while 24% would move further away.

"That got me thinking about the tension between where we live and where we work."
For a number of years, the desire among many of us has been to live in close proximity to our workplaces, or if we did reside further afield, to be well-connected to our cities through public transport, to ease the inconvenience of our daily commutes. But what happens when we take the commute out of the equation? What happens if the new norm is working from home a few days a week? And what does that mean for our lifestyle and location preferences, when where we work is no longer a key consideration in deciding where we live?


Changing behaviours and settlement patterns

As someone who has spent my whole working life thinking about people's wants and needs and how these factors determine property choices, I expect how we live and work post COVID-19 will not only redefine housing design, but whole new patterns of urban planning. I imagine a time when cities and suburbs will be orientated around both traditional workplaces and home-based hubs. Might we also see a steady migration to lifestyle-driven destinations such as coastal or country areas, as homes we'd normally book for the occasional short-term stay, perhaps become a more permanent address?

While these scenarios might take time to play out, what I have seen evidence of already is the rise of the urban village. We're falling in love again with our own backyards after having our usual freedom of movement severely restricted for so many weeks. We've all seen and experienced it: Kids on bikes doing laps of the neighbourhood or playing cricket in the cul-de-sac. Dogs absolutely everywhere. Parks packed with people wanting to be apart, together. Walking to the local shops rather than jumping in the car to go somewhere else.

"We've reclaimed the streets while we've been in lockdown."


A new hyper-local lifestyle

People living in apartments have also found novel ways to connect with their own micro-communities, whether that be using balconies as a platform to entertain others, or taking to the fire stairs to say hi to their neighbours, which is exactly what's happening at Mirvac's The Finery in Waterloo. Here we designed the fire stairs to be open and accessible, to encourage people to take the stairs rather than the lifts. This design decision has also since had the happy consequence of creating an 'incidental' meeting place for impromptu social exchanges.

Yes, it takes a village to create genuine connection and given the opportunity, we prefer to live hyper-local. Going hand-in-hand with this newfound appreciation for living local, I believe, will be a greater focus on public health and safety, and a greater investment in public infrastructure such as community spaces, to enable us to better balance our new working-from-home lives. Let's hope these and other urban improvements will be welcome by-products of a very unwelcome pandemic.