How tech can help Chicago’s real estate market bounce back from COVID-19

by Meg White

As a great deal of commerce has swiftly moved online to cope with coronavirus pandemic-related shutdowns, the local economy — and by extension, the real estate market — will depend upon technology to dig out of its current hole. How prepared is Chicago to accomplish that?

Image: STORAGECafé. Click for larger view.

A new analysis by STORAGECafé, a storage space marketplace built by real estate data firm Yardi, looked at how well networked certain regions of the country are — as well as how ingrained technology is in their local economies — to get at this question.

As any real estate professional knows, a booming local economy will lead to a more robust real estate market. Companies that are providing the digital tools we need to keep remote work going are expanding during this crisis, so it makes sense that areas where more people work in the tech sector could bounce back faster if these jobs are more plentiful during a time of record-high unemployment.

Of the study’s top 20 most technologically well-prepared U.S. metros, Chicago ranked 18th, with 7.2% of its workforce in the tech sector, an industry that contributes to 7.8% of the metro’s GDP.

With many jobs moving partially or wholly online in the wake of COVID-19-related shutdowns, it’s also important that residents have reliable internet access and hardware. This may cause immigration to certain areas where workers are now allowed to work remotely 100% of the time. Illinois ranked 26th in terms of the personal availability of technology in the report, with 88.3% of households owning a computer and 96% reporting an internet subscription. Of course, just being connected to the internet won’t always be enough to run virtual meetings. Thankfully, the state ranked a bit better when it comes to overall connectivity; Illinois came in 10th, reporting 92.3% broadband coverage.

Statewide data does have its drawbacks when it comes to technology coverage, though. “What the pandemic has laid bare is how stark are the contrasts in readiness between urban and suburban areas within states,” Lee W. McKnight, associate professor at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies, said in the report. “Inner-city, low-income neighborhoods are also badly underserved and not digital economy-ready. Since they either don’t even have the underlying infrastructure needed to access and work in the digital economy, or even if they do, many do not have the income or personal technology, education and training required. We tend to forget, but half the world’s population is not on the internet yet.”

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