New cities could pop up to accommodate a remote work boom
The Future. The rise of remote work may also eventually lead to the rise of new cities, or “Remotevilles,” giving workers plenty of choices of where to live while easing the population burden on existing metros. If Remotevilles take off, America could enter an era of “urban sprawl,” making city life affordable (once again) for most of the population.
Matthew E. Khan, an economics professor at USC, thinks moving to existing cities is a bad idea… because new cities are on the way.
- Khan believes these “Remotevilles” could be created on the “fringe of major cities” — an expansion of what Stanford researchers called the “donut effect” caused by COVID.
- Remotevilles would be connected to existing cities via rail or cheap direct flights. Khan notes how Stockton (a farm town in California) is only 80 miles from Apple’s HQ in Cupertino and could be a perfect candidate for a Remoteville.
- Remotevilles could offer remote workers lower housing costs, curated amenities, and a chance to test out new municipal policy and innovation “experiments” (an exciting incentive for utopian tech workers).
And these cities could actually be built in record time and costs, thanks to recent developments in modular and 3D-printed housing. As the need to build homes rises, construction workers are incentivized to move to meet the demand… which brings other occupations such as doctors, dentists, and teachers — a phenomenon called the “local multiplier effect.”
Before you know it, you got a new city.
With 40% of the American workforce expected to be working at least part of the time remotely, there’s a lot of opportunity to make these Remotevilles a reality. And there are historical precedents and contemporary experiments to show that the ambition is possible.
- In the 1970s, “company towns,” like Irvine, California popped up to house workers of different corporations.
- In South Korea, Busan is experimenting with smart city innovations with a neighborhood just outside its border called the Eco Delta Smart Village.
- Toyota is building Woven City in Japan, Saudi Arabia is building Neom, and CityDAO is hoping to develop a blockchain-backed city in Wyoming — experiments that could act as blueprints for future metros.
And here’s an added benefit to the rise of Remotevilles: it gives existing cities a much-needed break. As workers migrate to the new towns, industry centers (LA, NYC), new hotspots (Miami, Nashville), and “Zoomtowns” (Bozeman, Ketchum) could see the costs of living even out and congestion lessen.