The pandemic prompts a migration out of the city— and into Appalachia:
by Claire Hogg, Advocacy Intern at Fahe
Beginning the early March days of COVID-19, many city dwellers began flocking to rural spots to wait out the social distancing orders, either in rentals or moving in with family. Los Angeles and New York City residents have relocated to their parents’ homes in places like northern New Hampshire or small-town Connecticut.
With this migration out of major cities, speculation grows as to whether these relocations will be short-lived and disappear with a vaccine or signal a long-term trend. The media has been full of stories about the virus convincing urban families to search for homes in places that allow for backyards and greater living space.
Real estate agents in rural areas have been inundated with people from cities looking to rent or buy. This migration does have benefits for local economies in the form of higher income residents and more local spending. However, an influx of new residents can also mean rapidly rising housing costs.
Appalachia is no stranger to this phenomenon. Asheville, long a refuge for the wealthy to escape summer heat, has seen gentrification overtake its housing market — forcing out long-time residents who are no longer able to afford the rent. Pre-COVID, tourism was booming but hospitality workers now commute to a city where they previously could live.
Many other areas in Appalachia are gaining traction as places to invest in second homes. The mountains of East Tennessee near Dollywood, the small towns dotting through western North Carolina, and parts of West Virginia within striking distance of the booming economy of Washington.
A final demographic note, the flight of young people has been a tragic development in rural America over the last two decades. COVID’s impact may have a rejuvenating effect on these communities by bringing millennials back. This migration, whether temporary or permanent, creates opportunity. If our rural communities are proactive, they can protect their current residents while planning for a more prosperous economy for all. Find out more at Fahe.org.
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