How will COVID-19 affect urban planning?

This short article, published on The City Fix in April 2020, focuses on the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on urban planning. It discusses five key ways urban planning might shift in response to Covid-19: importance of access to core services; affordable housing and public space; access to green and blue spaces; increased city-regional planning; and more evidence-based planning decisions.

Date added 17 August 2021
Last updated 17 August 2021

This short article, published on The City Fix in April 2020, focuses on the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on urban planning. It explains how cultural trends, technological advancements, and other crises have long shaped the design of our cities, as the author explains below:

“How we plan our cities has always been a reflection of prevailing cultural and technological trends and even major crises. The cholera epidemics in the 19th century sparked the introduction of modern urban sanitation systems. Housing regulations around light and air were introduced as a measure against respiratory diseases in overcrowded slums in Europe during industrialization".

With changes seen to city life since the Covid-19 pandemic, including less mobility and growth in home-working, the article outlines five key ways urban planning may shift in response to this crisis, as summarised below:

Five ways urban planning might change:

 1. Access to core services

The pandemic has brought to light inequalities around who has access to core services such as healthcare and housing, within urban areas. The author calls for greater attempts to close this ‘urban service divide’ in the future, in order to enhance liveability and resilience to future potential lockdowns and crises.

 2. Affordable housing and public spaces

To ensure the health of the population, the report advises urban density has to be met with adequate provision of affordable housing and public spaces. As well as temporary changes to our streets already witnessed during Covid-19, the article calls for more permanent transformations in these areas too.

 3. Green and blue spaces

The pandemic has revealed the importance of green and blue spaces for people’s wellbeing. The article suggests these spaces should be brought into the heart of urban planning, with a more holistic approach needed which integrates grey, green and blue infrastructure.

 4. Increased city-regional planning

The article calls for more integrated city-regional planning, with a greater range of stakeholders involved in planning decisions, to ensure networks, such as transport, food production, and energy provision, are more resilient in the face of future crises and natural disasters, like flooding.

5. More city-level data

The author argues that more granular-level, and regularly updated, data is provided to city planners and other relevant stakeholders, in order to make better evidence-based decisions about the future of urban areas. Data should be moved out of silos to ensure the future resilience of cities.