More than three months have hurriedly passed by as we stay engulfed in the cloud of the ongoing pandemic. It’s sane to say that we haven’t witnessed anything of this magnitude in our lives. No parallels can be drawn to this catastrophic event where medical issues, humanitarian challenges, and economic crisis are embroiled in an unending loop.
And while the pandemic is showing no signs of abatement, the only option left is to survive this onslaught, live healthily and prepare for what the future has in store. While we can’t predict whether this outbreak will spill over to next year and beyond, we can obviously bring radical changes to our lifestyle to buck any future health crisis.
A perennial health risk
Even before the pandemic started, millions of Indians lacked decent, affordable homes and cooped themselves up in urban slums. Living in cramped, over-crowded, and unplanned rented accommodations, these inhabitants are now at the greatest risk of contracting this virus as the government grapples with its response.
About 52-98 million people live in India's urban slums whilst 59% of the slums lack legal recognition by the government. These places lack basic sewerage facilities, good drainage systems, fresh air, space, and access to proper medical care.
And with the high-risk quotient of this virus, the clamor for shifting to affordable housing spaces in peri-urban areas is getting louder.
A departure from rental mindset
The menacing virus has made one thing starkly clear: staying at home, washing hands, and maintaining social distancing won’t work if you stay in cramped, dingy accommodations. This reality has awakened the consciousness of people who were staying in rented accommodations and were oblivious of the need for a home.
For most of them, renting was an easier alternative as it provided them an opportunity to save, as rents increased just 2-3% per year on average. The lockdown and the underlying fear of the pandemic made them rethink their decision. It encouraged citizens to reconsider their lifestyle and understand the value of a garden, open spaces, and spacious abodes.
Health and Housing-A solid relationship
The sudden increase in remote work and the need for a personal office space away from domestic disruptions are now increasingly felt by millennials and quadragenarians. The increase in savings due to curtailed expenses over the months is another factor in vying for an independent home seriously.
The homebuying priorities have also changed after COVID happened. People are wishing for a less centralized city lifestyle and have no qualms in moving to the peripheries where fresh air, greenery, and open spaces are in abundance. Facilities like commute links or proximity from the workplace will stay diluted for now as remote working is set to become a permanent fixture in the coming years.
The decision to relocate to affordable housing areas far from the city and purchase a larger home for the same city price quotient while maintaining the weekly commute time steady is the aim of most homebuyers today.
While homeownership has always been at the back of the minds of Indians, the current situation will accelerate the desire to own a home to have a peace of mind and sense of security. With stocks, mutual funds and other asset classes making a mess of the hopes & expectations of middle-class consumers, investing in a home has become a more prudent decision.
Though this development is music to the ears of the weakened real estate sector, real estate developers will have to swing into action to complete housing projects that are on the verge of delivery or finishing, as demand will come in hordes mostly from end-users. They will have to focus on big affordable housing projects in the peri-urban areas as Gen Z folks will look to shift away from cities to open spaces.