Coronavirus has made working from home the new measure of inequality

The newest dividing line between the Bay Area’s haves and
have-notmay be who can work from home and who can’t during the
coronavirus pandemic, overshadowing homeownership
as a key factor in economic well-being.

Renters and homeowners who weren’t able to work from home were
twice as likely to have missed their April payments as their
work-from-home counterparts, according to a new report from housing
website Apartment
. That percentage who missed payments was almost exactly
the same for renters and homeowners, even though people who own
their homes tend to have higher incomes, according to Apartment
List’s chief economist Igor Popov.

“This could really have lasting implications on inequality for
years to come,†he said.

That’s because jobs that have to be done in person — like
cashiers, grocery store clerks or childcare workers — tend to pay
less. During any recession, those low-wage workers are usually more

“This actually feels very different in how acutely the burden
right now is on those who can least bear it,†said Popov.

Jobs that pay well also tend to be those that can be done
remotely, at least in part. Jobs with high work-from-home rates
also have low poverty rates — except for artists, who can work
from home and still not make much money. Workers that can’t go
remote were five times more likely to get laid off, and twice as
likely to work fewer hours, according to the report.

That can have serious housing repercussions — 90 percent of
people who can work from home full-time said they’re between
somewhat and extremely sure they will be able to afford their rent
or mortgage payments if shelter in place orders last through the
end of June. Only 62 percent of workers who couldn’t work
remotely said the same, and 20 percent of them said they were not
at all confident they could pay for housing for that long.

That’s not to say homeowners don’t have long-term advantages
over renters in a protracted crisis, Popov said.

“Homeowners are more likely to be in a situation that, give
them a month and they can figure something out, even if cash
isn’t easy to come by,†he said.

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This new divide could be a double-edged sword for the Bay Area.
Among major U.S. metro areas, San Jose had the lowest share of
workers that can’t do their jobs remotely and who work for
non-essential businesses. That gives it an edge over cities like
New Orleans or Las Vegas, which rely much more heavily on
in-person, non-essential service jobs.

But a crisis that decimates small businesses like bars,
restaurants and coffee shops could kill one of the main draws of
expensive cities like San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose. The
trade-off for higher rent has always been access to more small
businesses and live events. Popov wonders what will happen if those
go away or don’t come back as strong as before — will people
still pay San Francisco rents if they can’t enjoy the city in the
same way?

Based on his own experience, Popov thinks they may not. He
recently moved from an apartment in South Berkeley to a more
suburban home in Redwood City. At first, he missed being able to
walk to a brewery or go to a neighborhood restaurant where he knew
everyone. But many of those places are shuttered under shelter in
place orders.

“Now I’m like, ‘Oh I’m glad we’re not in that
apartment anymore,’†he said.

Source: FS – All – Real Estate News 1
Coronavirus has made working from home the new measure of