If populism and the backlash against globalisation have taught us anything, it is that, too often, we adhere to narratives and conclusions that reflect our own experiences or our own values when reality is more complex.
There’s an assumption currently that the increased incidence of remote working combined with better broadband will reduce the desire to live in city centre locations or the need to travel to urban centres for work, reducing demand for housing and transport in these areas.
No doubt this is true in part – figures on remote working, transport use and retail sales back it up – but there is a countervailing narrative, one that is lost in much of the commentary.
A KBC Bank survey regarding the impact of Covid-19 on housing demand finds that, while the crisis had made living conditions and home-ownership more of a priority for some, these tend to be people on better incomes.
For others, the survey suggests, work and income are now more precarious than ever and therefore the focus on living conditions is less.
Similarly, while the pandemic had increased the willingness of 16 per cent of consumers to live farther from work, a larger segment (21 per cent) said it had reduced their willingness to live farther afield, potentially reflecting the impact of reduced transport services.
Another assumption stems from the massive build-up in savings – Irish households have put an additional €12.6 billion into bank and credit union accounts so far this year. This has led to the notion that many people are now in a better position to stump up the deposit needed to buy a home.
Again, this is true only of a certain cohort.
The survey found that although 18 per cent of people said the pandemic had increased their savings capacity, a bigger proportion (21 per cent) said it had done the opposite and had effectively made home ownership a more remote prospect.
The point is, there are multiple Covid narratives. While one group has been lifted financially, another has been pushed down. While one group may have more flexible work options, another appears to have fewer.