Coronavirus could set back the pro-density movement

Opponents have more ammunition and prospective residents reason to think twice

New York Weekend Edition /
May.May 09, 2020 02:00 PM
New York City (Credit: iStock)

New York City (Credit: iStock)

The movement toward dense, transit-adjacent development picked up steam over the last few years, but the coronavirus pandemic might prove to be a big setback.

The pandemic has forced a quick national pivot toward telecommuting, which some think could undercut the utility of living near transit, according to the New York Times. If you don’t need to go into the office so often, why not spread out a bit?

Density advocates and lawmakers will likely find the pandemic gives rivals new ammunition to argue against their push for more zoning.

Some pro-density lawmakers, like California State Sen. Scott Wiener cautioned that there will still be a need for housing in his state after the pandemic subsides. Wiener has been trying to pass a statewide transit-oriented development bill for years and presented his most recent version in early March, just before coronavirus took the state by storm.

Developers meanwhile have to weigh consumer interest in such housing. Bob Youngentob, CEO of Maryland-based developer EYA, said his firm might switch its focus from more dense transit developments to townhomes if demand for the former falls enough.

“The forced interaction of sharing doors and elevators has caused some anxiety,” Youngentob told the Times. “Townhomes, where you come in and out of your door, and you know you are the only one touching your door handle, provide some comfort.”

Those who continue to build dense projects might reconsider their design strategy for public health — walkways could become wider and open spaces larger, for example. [NYT]Dennis Lynch


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