15 Jul 2020

The COVID-19 legacy carried by Australia’s next generation could be the driving force behind the social and urban transformation Australia needs.

As we adapt to the short term impacts of COVID-19, it is time to consider what the new normal could look like for urban living. Our cities will be refashioned by the 24.8% of Australians born between 1996-2016, who have been dubbed the Covillenniel Generation by Urbis Future State Directors James Tuma and Kate Meyrick.

“The experience of the dramatic onset of social and economic change resulting from COVID-19 will determine how Covillenniels reframe how and where we live, work, study, entertain ourselves and consume goods or experiences,” said James.   

Whether Covillenniels perpetuate the current emphasis on city living, or amplify COVID-19 induced disaggregation, profound social and spatial impacts will be incurred by our cities. Our cities are the geographies of greatest density, and the knowledge intensive engine rooms of the economy. Close to 86% of Australians currently live in urban areas, according to OECD 2018.

We could be on the cusp of the renaissance of local centres and the neighbourhood model as Covillenniels embrace physical social withdrawal.

“Given their relatively high level of autonomy and growing lack of trust in institutions or leaders, an emphasis on the private domain and digital channels for connection could continue to be favoured over human contact,” said Kate.   

The agile and remote working environment enforced during COVID-19 quarantine period is also favoured by the self-reliant Covillenniel Generation, answering their desire for increased mastery over their lives and lifestyles. The new working environment enables optimised working hours and flexible routines, which could enhance the nation’s productivity across the service sector by 5% per annum. This would add around $100 billion annually to GDP and in turn support a much-needed boost to average weekly earnings of between 2.5 to 3%.

Working locally and neighbourhood-oriented lifestyles would see an increase in mixed use developments, the kind of which are already boosting revenue for suburban retail property in inner city Sydney and Melbourne by 3-4% per annum. Many of these properties have been independently-owned restaurants, cafes and food and grocery retailing – fundamental community elements. 

The neighbourhood model will privilege walkability and urban active transport whilst reducing the need for road infrastructure.  Investment will be channelled into local streets and a fine mesh of public transport options that facilitate local trips.

A Covillenniel ‘small pack’ rather than a ‘large herd’ mentality would also promote more granular public open space models. A series of smaller and more intimate green spaces and community places would cater for small group gatherings.

Alternatively, Australia’s next generation could do what most generations that have preceded them have done – kick back on trends rather than amplify current COVID-19 enforced work and lifestyle patterns. The most resilient and independent generation in history could crave the reassurance and inspiration of human contact. In this scenario density in cities would not be controversial, as they become the essential lifeblood of new highly productive precincts.

“We are in the middle of a globally defining one in one-hundred-year event.  The only thing that is certain is the inevitability of change post Corona,” said James.  

The only thing that is certain is the inevitability of change post Corona

James Tuma View Profile

The Covillenniel Generation will implement new urban living and planning patterns, based on their desire to either embrace decentralised working or return to a cohesive city lifestyle with intensified rigour.

Adopting the following five key strategies will position our cities more astutely to tackle recovery post COVID-19:

  1. Learning from other cities and communities – collaborating and co-operating through the immediate aftermath and onwards.
  2. Planning and managing cities that work well for everyone – not just brilliantly for a few.
  3. Engaging with our clients and communities to understand what they want or need as underlying values and behaviours change.
  4. Recognising the power of data and looking beyond the headlines to determine changes in key city performance indicators.
  5. Scrutinising governance of our cities – ensure we are focusing capital investment for future resilience.

For further information on urban living post Corona or advice on how to prepare for a new world, please contact Future State Directors James Tuma and Kate Meyrick.

James Tuma View Profile
Kate Meyrick View Profile