People have always moved around the globe, and particularly in the United States, throughout the country. As industrialization altered the way we live, more Americans began to live in cities. As the Industrial Age shifted to the Service and Information Age, population shifted from Upper Midwest and East Coast cities to Western and Southern states. Often, the patterns go in both directions, as many large cities such as New York City, saw massive population surges in the 2000’s. Throughout the past 20-30 years, many rural areas saw huge population declines and changing demographics drew young people away and left older populations.
How will the Covid-19 Pandemic change life in the US? Will we make changes to where and how we live? Or will the effects be negligible? The answer is so far, that it’s too early to tell. But, stories are emerging of people leaving large cities and the abandonment of large commercial office space as the pandemic forces work to become even more virtual and remote. We think its too early to draw any hard conclusions, and so far such arguments seem to be overstated.
No doubt cities like Seattle and New York will lose some population. But to claim that they will be abandoned and vacated is to grossly misunderstand migration trends of the past 100 years. Cities will still offer things that rural and remote locations cannot compete with. On the other hand, there was a large push for people to buy rural land and build a homestead in the 1990’s, and that push could see a renewal. Suburbs that were stagnant could see a wave of sudden interest.
How will this affect Kansas and specifically Lawrence? Kansas has often struggled to keep it’s young population and to grow its population. Rural areas of the state have hemorrhaged people and talent to it’s larger metro areas, namely Kansas City/Johnson County, and to Lawrence. And even those locations have seen losses to larger metros like Chicago and Denver.
We believe that Lawrence as a place to live and work has a lot to offer! It’s a small city, but has many of the perks of a larger metro without many of the hassles. Yet, Downtown Kansas City is merely 45 minutes away. Lawrence has been already experiencing a housing shortage for several years now. We expect in the coming months and years that Lawrence will see an even greater increase in housing demand. This will continue to put strain on housing affordability. We feel it is imperative that the City of Lawrence begins to re-evaluate their growth-strangling Horizon 2040 Plan in order to deal with this before it happens.
If they do not, Lawrence will lose its opportunity to capitalize on this migration. Other cities with effective Smart Growth and pro-growth strategies will win out. Lawrence should be an incredible option for those who seek to live in a great Midwestern city that offers so much of what they’re used to having elsewhere. And right now it is! But it’s not guaranteed. We expect migration patterns to bring people to Douglas County and the City of Lawrence in the near future. We hope that the City is ready and able to make changes necessary to take advantage of the coming trends!