Mass Reboot: Home

For many, COVID transformed homes into offices

THE CORONAVIRUS pandemic has often served as a magnifying glass, accentuating and amplifying existing trends in our society. 

With housing, for example, COVID-19 showed us what we already suspected – that poor people and people of color are most vulnerable to displacement from their homes in tough economic times, that access to housing is one of the key contributing factors to the state’s wealth gap, and that the failure to increase the supply of housing keeps home prices rising to higher and higher levels.

 “There’s not enough house to go around. It gets worse progressively as the years continue,” said Symone Crawford of the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance.

The latest edition of Mass Reboot, a Codcast series examining how COVID-19 affected Massachusetts and how the state is adjusting moving forward, explores many of these issues through interviews with Crawford; Denise Matthews-Turner, co-executive director of City Life Vida Urbana; and Jessie Partridge Guerrero of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.

But COVID also introduced a new wrinkle that could have a big impact on the housing market going forward. After decades of commuting to and from work, COVID demonstrated that many people could work just as effectively from home. And the home/office could be anywhere. With a good internet connection, someone could work for a Massachusetts company while living down the block, across the country, or even abroad. 

Many young people moved back in with their parents – why pay Boston rents when all you’re doing is sitting in your pajamas at home staring at a computer screen? Others moved to California or Texas and worked remotely.

Surveys conducted by the MassINC Polling Group, which produces Mass Reboot, indicate 60 percent of the state’s workforce would like to continue to work from home post-pandemic, at least a couple of days a week. Employers are not averse to the idea, either. 

So where does that leave us? As we emerge from our pandemic-induced quarantine, it’s unclear whether we will revert to our old commute-to-work ways or whether homes will continue to double as workplaces. And if your office is your home, how will you decide where you want to live? Will cities still draw us in, or will we disperse to where homes are cheaper and rents are less?

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

There are a lot of questions and very few answers. Libby Gormley, the host of Mass Reboot, said COVID didn’t cause the state’s housing problem but it did expose how bad it is. As for the future of housing, she said she’s still looking for the reboot. 

“There isn‘t one, at least not yet, but boy do we need one,” she said.