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Coronavirus and the Future of Cities: A Final Pre-Election Tour of the Issues

This is Planetizen's seventh collection of articles on the subject of the future of cities in the wake of the pandemic, and how cities and communities are changing plans to respond to the many changes that world has experienced in 2020.
James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell | November 3, 2020, 5am PST
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2020 Election
Voters wait for their chance to cast their ballots on October 15, 2020 in Wake Forest, North Carolina.

The sad and surreal sight of businesses boarding up windows and doors in anticipation of social unrest has become increasingly common as the United States hurtled toward Election Day, November 2020.

It's safe to say that when the calendar changed to 2020, back on the January 1, few, if any of us, anticipated anything but the election being the biggest story of the year. Now, anxious voters and the international community are forced to simultaneously navigate the brutal intersections of numerous, massive societal shifts. Planning ahead involves hunkering down until the dust settles from the election. Who could have planned for that?

Throughout the pandemic, Planetizen has been documenting the ongoing debate about the future of urbanism, planning, transportation, etc., so far sharing six previous compendiums of articles on the subject, with many more examples mixed in over the course of the year.

We share this latest compendium of articles on Election Day, because it's clear that everything that comes after the votes are counted will mark a new chapter in the pandemic and for the United States.

If you're looking for a planning narrative within the pandemic narrative on this most auspicious of occasions, it is time to acknowledge that data have begun to confirm the anecdotal evidence about a surge in demand for non-urban lifestyles. While rent falls in the nation's densest locations (i.e., San Francisco and New York City), rent is climbing in suburban locations. Meanwhile, the price of for-sale homes spiked at a record rate over the summer. 

But the trends are driven by very different economic situations that still must be disaggregated from the larger trends. Some pandemic trends are driven by people with the privilege and means to make decisions to work from home, buy cars, and buy homes on the regional periphery, and other trends are driven by people making choices out of the necessities of survival. The long-term effects of the choices made by Americans during the pandemic will only be easier to anticipate when we know more about which kind of change is happening, where, and at what scale. An effective planning response also depends on a more complete understanding of these distinctions.

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