Eduvation Blog

Laptop Shortages and Exurbanization

Good morning, and Happy Monday!

Much as it is on too many US campuses, COVID19 is suddenly surging in BC because of crowded bars, nightclubs, and private parties. The province is cracking down, issuing fines of up to $10,000 to party hosts, starting with a fellow who hosted about 50 guests in his one-bedroom apartment. (Allowing bars and clubs to stay open sends a very mixed message to students, unfortunately.)

Today, though, let’s look at another crisis brewing in the supply chain for laptops and tablets, and a deep dive into COVID19’s impact on real estate, exurbanization, and walkable cities. Plus trends impacting student rentals, housing insecurity and campus dorms…  

The Great Laptop Shortage

This spring, the COVID19 pandemic sparked panic buying of more than just toilet paper and hand sanitizer…

Store Shelves Stripped Bare

Back in mid-March, as millions of students, teachers, and faculty switched to emergency remote teaching and millions of employees shifted to WFH, companies, families and school districts bought up every laptop they could find – but many were met with bare shelves and backorders, thanks to supply chain disruptions in China and unprecedented demand.  Wall Street Journal

Record iPad and Mac Sales

Sometimes consumers were left with little option but to purchase more expensive models – and Apple benefited significantly, with a 31% increase in iPad sales and 18% increase in Mac revenue compared to 2019, despite closure of Apple stores. CNBC

Apple Tops $2 Trillion

Doubtless this year’s record sales helped Apple become the first publicly-traded US company to exceed a $2 trillion market cap earlier this month, doubling its valuation in just 2 years. In 2020 alone, the stock have risen 55%, prompting a new 4-way stock split. Apple’s market value now exceeds Canada’s annual GDP! Forbes

As I reported at the time, many CdnPSEs sought to assist dislocated students this spring: in March, York secured 1,500 laptops to loan students, Sheridan staff contributed redundant laptops to be refurbished for students, and Centennial received 5,000 Chromebooks to loan students. The cycle of announcements is likely about to start again…

Trent to provide 500 Chromebooks

Trent U announced Friday that they have raised $270,000 from donors for the Remote Learning Initiative, which will provide Google Chromebooks to more than 500 students this year – not as loaners, but as a permanent gift. “Not having the correct technology can directly translate to not having access to a quality education.” Global

I hope they got their orders in early, because guess what?

Another Back-to-School Shortage

School districts across at least 15 states have ordered thousands of low-cost laptops to ensure students can start distance learning this fall, but those orders have been delayed by months due to global shortages and US sanctions on Chinese suppliers. “I’m not condoning child slave labour for computers, but can we not hurt more children in the process?” HP, Dell, and Lenovo report a shortage of 5 million laptops to meet demand for orders this fall. 680 News

Good luck everyone!


Major plagues have lasting impacts on population migration and urban design, from sanitary sewers to urban spaces, and if the COVID19 pandemic creates protracted disruption, it will be no different. In theory, exurban migration could shift the geography of PSE markets and demand, the residence preferences of staff and faculty, and the appeal of urban institutions…

The Urban Exodus

The COVID19 pandemic hit dense urban centres like New York, London, and Madrid far harder than anywhere. Modern cities, with narrow sidewalks, crowded streets and elevators, make social distancing almost impossible during a pandemic – and their prime attractions (restaurants, theatres, cultural events, and corporate head offices) have been off-limits for months. As society reopens, young people may still find the bright lights of the big city irresistible, but (as during centuries of plague) wealthier older people are already retreating to summer homes in the country. Toronto telecommuters started buying up rural and cottage real estate in June, driving a 73% increase in transactions.

Rental markets have collapsed as new immigrant and student demand has waned. Condo listings were up 45% in Toronto, but deals fell 25%, prices fell 6%, and rental rates dropped 9% in many parts of the city. The pandemic has turned the Toronto rental market “upside down,” with landlords competing for tenants with perks and discounts, and AirBnB units sitting vacant. Condo sales in Vancouver have also evaporated. 40% of American city-dwellers are considering a move to the suburbs. Policy researchers at Australia’s Victoria Upredict that, if WFH continues, even just a few days per week, urban sprawl will expand and housing demand will shift further from city centres, driving new demands on municipal infrastructure and creating negative environmental impacts.

White Picket Fences

Just as drive-ins seem to be experiencing a renaissance, the suburbs are coming back – and are proving irresistible to more single, younger buyers than ever. The combination of low mortgage rates and pandemic-inspired demand for more living space, home gyms, and home offices for two are driving demand into “lower-density” markets rather than large urban cores. As online shopping rises, even proximity to retail stores is less a priority. Ontarians are looking for bigger homes and more outdoor space, in suburban or rural areas, and renters were quick to rethink their priorities and relocate. This summer, the national average sales price for houses rose 14% over last year, and sales closed 7 days faster. The “gold rush in real estate” is being fuelled by “the dawning realization that for many of us, our homes are going to be the only place we work and play for the foreseeable future.”

Walkable Cities

Thanks to expanded WFH arrangements, the so-called “15-minute city” may be coming back into vogue, allowing residents to walk or cycle a short distance to meet all their daily needs. Milan is going to guarantee all residents will have essential services within walking distance. Portland aims to achieve it for 90% of residents by 2030. Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, has become one big “open-air café” since the pandemic began, banning most cars from its Old Town. UBC planning experts observe that cities are “rolling out planned bicycle infrastructure, street calming projects or sidewalk re-designs” to create more pedestrian-friendly environments. uAlberta has found that widening the “shared-use” portion of streets cuts physical distancing violations by 54%. New medium-density suburban housing projects are moving forward, often near rail stations. The result may be a “massive reshuffling of retail, restaurant and office space.”

Uncertainty Ahead

Canada’s residential real estate market is already slowing, and bracing for uncertainty this fall. If K-12 students have to study from home, working parents may face reduced hours and income. With the end of CERB and mortgage deferrals, high unemployment and lower immigration, analysts expect Canada’s residential markets to cool later this year, particularly for urban condos and rentals for tourists, new arrivals and students. The CMHC expects house prices to fall through 2021. Off-campus rental vacancies may increase in some cities, absorbing those students we cannot accommodate on campus while observing adequate distancing. If the effect is protracted, it may also drive rental housing market pricing downward, and force campus residence fees downward too.

Housing Insecurity

As eviction moratoria expire, 30-40 million tenants may face eviction across the US, in the midst of an unprecedented economic downturn and public health crisis. (A typical year would see “just” 3 million.) Researchers from Princeton, MIT and others calculate that 29-43% of US renter households could be at risk of eviction by December: America could have “Great Depression levels of homelessness by year’s end,” hitting disadvantaged, disabled and minority families hardest.  Many tenants will face an insurmountable pile of back rent, and many landlords will face foreclosure and bankruptcy themselves, echoing the drivers of the 2008 recession. Secure housing is one of the 4 pillars of social resiliency, alongside employment, healthcare, and of course – education. The pandemic’s repercussions on low-income families will further disadvantage our at-risk students, and intensify the challenge of encouraging their participation in tertiary education.

Density isn’t Unhealthy

Ultimately, the COVID19 pandemic has been compounded not so much by urban density as by residential density, over-crowding within households (or residence halls, for that matter). Cities themselves encourage walking and biking, provide better healthcare, and support longer and healthier lives. Cities like Taipei, Hong Kong, and Seoul have contained the virus better than lower-density cities by enacting stricter social distancing orders, sooner. The Atlantic

PSE institutions have been encouraging sustainable transit and pedestrianizing their campuses for years. Post-COVID trends in architecture will also transform the campus – tune in tomorrow!

CdnPSE Updates

Positive enrolment signs at Dal and in CE at Ryerson, Winter term will continue to be hybrid at Okanagan, and a mobile COVID19 testing unit on campus at Western…

Dalhousie U reports that “fall registration numbers are encouraging to this point, leaving us cautiously optimistic that enrolment is turning out better than originally modeled.” Revenue declines are still expected in several key areas, and fiscal prudence is still required. Dal

Okanagan College has announced that the Winter 2021 semester will “look a lot like this fall… a blend of online and hybrid courses.” Although they acknowledge uncertainty about the pandemic, “it is important that students know now.” OC

Ryerson U reports that continuing ed enrolments have surged 51% this fall. The dean credits adult learners looking to upskill in a time of economic disruption. “Online learning has culturally caught up to online dating – it’s now the default setting for just about everyone and we don’t know really if we will ever switch back entirely to pre-COVID education models.” ENC

uWaterloo has asked international students to complete a mandatory check-in form, to confirm their plans for fall term, travel history and plans, and quarantine plan. uWaterloo

Western U will launch a mobile COVID19 rapid testing unit on campus this fall, for staff and student use. It will be the third testing location in the city of London. London Free Press


I hope your week gets off to a wonderful start.  Stay safe and be well…


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