It’s the ‘next thing’ or ‘new wave’ or whatever you want to call it. Food delivery. Everyone is either doing it or trying to do it. Grocery delivery hasn’t taken off yet but it appears that that time will come and that time has come for food delivery from restaurants thanks to GrubHub and others. Well since you don’t have to go to the grocery store or to the sandwich shop anymore because the stores are delivering the groceries and food to your work or home, the grocery stores don’t need aisles and aisles or stuff anymore and the restaurants don’t need as much seating. Here’s a thought, downsize the stores and make affordable housing for public servants.
Grocery stores have recognized what other retailers did not, you get disrupted or you disrupt. Sears was late to the party and it cost them. Now Sears biggest asset might be the real estate it sits on across the country. Grocery stores and places to eat are not going out of business anytime soon but do they need all that space in urban areas? The answer is ‘no’ and the wave of automation is coming whether the checkout clerks like it or not.
With this, stores will not need the same square footage as they did previously. With less humans (we are talking some job loss here or at a minimum lower incomes) needed to stock shelves or check out customers, that space can be used for housing. Look at Denver. According to Redfin, average teachers salary in Denver can afford just .3% of the metro area homes.
The big idea is this, local government works with the grocery stores, restaurants and developers to purchase a part or the store or all of it, build out rent controlled condos/townhouses and give public servants like teachers dibs on the new dwellings. You use tax incentives to get the developers and stores on board and create a lottery for public servants with the caveat that they cannot sell or AirBnB the places for a couple of years (in fact you may have to just rent them and split the money between the three groups). The goal here is to reuse the urban space in the middle of cities to help public servants who can’t afford to live in the cities they work in a chance to do so.
This idea will get a lot of push back I know but the fact is that housing prices keep climbing and incomes have not kept up (and that’s been happening for a while now). A new approach is needed and there are some benefits of automation. One of those being that companies like grocers and retailers may not need as much space as they did in the past. If they don’t, let’s have government and private industry work together to solve the communities issues and have a situation where the companies and the citizens make out.