Being housebound has B.C.ers rethinking home after four months of COVID-19 pandemic, poll finds

"Our homes have become more than just a place that we sleep," Heather Owen, vice-president of Leger.

Some four months of experience with the COVID-19 pandemic has a noticeable number of British Columbians re-evaluating where and how they live, according to a new poll by Leger.

Some 15 per cent of respondents reported they would consider moving house in the next 18 months as a result of the pandemic and some of the changes it has brought.

However, that number rose to 31 per cent among respondents aged 18-to-35, for reasons ranging from simply wanting change, not being able to afford where they’re living now or needing more space.

“I think that the reality for people at home, having been at home for the last four months in many cases, is that our homes have become more than just a place that we sleep,” said Leger vice-president Heather Owen.

As researchers, Owen said they had been noticing anecdotal indications that the pandemic has been creating shifts people hadn’t thought about before, such as the need to have a home office, so they “wanted to take a temperature” with a few questions.

“It’s definitely not a deep-dive, but it may be an early indication of a shift in the way that British Columbians are thinking about their homes,” Owen said.

Individually, the reasons respondents were considering a move were diffuse, just nine per cent said they needed more work space, another nine per cent said to accommodate an adult family member moving in, but 20 per cent worried they wouldn’t be able to afford where they live now.

“(That) did stand out for me,” Owen said. “People are feeling stress, their careers may be stalled, so what happens if 20 per cent of people who say they’re moving because they can no longer afford where they currently live?”

Some 26 per cent reported plans to relocate, but the biggest group, 39 per cent, indicated they simply wanted a change.

Overall, however, the Leger study, which was conducted in conjunction with Postmedia News, found a high degree of optimism for a post-COVID-19 future.

Some 64 per cent of respondents reported being optimistic about their personal futures to some degree, with a full two-thirds who expressed optimism about B.C.’s future, although there was something of a demographic divide in the results.

Generally, 26 per cent of respondents reported being pessimistic about their personal futures, but that figure rose to 41 per cent among those between the ages of 18 and 34, versus 27 per cent for those over age 35.

Younger respondents were also more pessimistic about the province’s prospects, with 34 per cent of those 18-to-55 falling into that category, versus 23 per cent of those over 55.

That, Owen said, might be an “age-and-stage point of view” among younger British Columbians: “This is probably one of the worst global dynamics that they’ve seen.”

Generally, Owen found it encouraging that people have a positive outlook for a post-COVID-19 future.

A separate Leger study that regularly tracks the attitudes of Canadians during the pandemic found that 51 per cent of British Columbians feel stressed just leaving the house.

“It’s good to know that a lot of people are telling us that they feel stressed today (however) they do think that they’ll fell better later,” Owen said.

Leger conducted the survey between July 17 and 19 among 1,003 respondents from the firm’s online panel, with responses weighted according to age, gender and region as stated by the 2016 census to ensure a representative panel.