The current pandemic will change cities, experts predict, the way infectious disease outbreaks influenced the development of urban centres in decades past. McGill University urban planning professor David Wachsmuth said cities have historically gone through cycles of densification and what he called “spaceification” — for example, after the Second World War when the federal government encouraged people to move from city centres to the “healthier” suburbs.
But Wachsmuth doesn’t predict a flight from cities this time. “I think we are, broadly speaking, in a period where the density of cities has been understood as a positive thing, and I don’t think that’s going to change,” he said in a recent interview.
City life could get cheaper, however, Wachsmuth explained. If the pandemic triggers a longer-term economic decline, property prices will take a major hit, he said, making room for lower-income people and families to return to the space they were pushed out of as gentrification took hold.