- The wealthy have fled big cities for vacation homes in smaller towns to ride out the coronavirus pandemic.
- They’re taking refuge everywhere from coastal New England and western ski resorts in the US to the countryside in England.
- Local residents are concerned the influx of visitors will stretch their supplies and hospital systems thinner than they already are.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The wealthy have taken flight.
They have left their urban dwellings behind, escaping to smaller communities that offer them the luxury of more space and access to nature as they ride out the pandemic.
Some have taken refuge in their second homes, where they’re part-time residents in the summer, while others rented vacation homes. And while they tend to favour some of the most traditionally popular hot spots for the rich and famous, these locales spread far and wide.
New York City residents have headed upstate to the mountains and out to the Hamptons. They, along with other east coast urbanites, have also infiltrated coastal New England, flocking to some of Massachusetts’ most elite enclaves and Maine’s islands. Out west, the wealthy are sheltering at ski resorts, from Idaho to Wyoming.
But it’s not just the US witnessing the flight of the wealthy – the UK, too, is seeing its Londoners and other city residents heading to their second homes in the countryside.
No matter the location, the problem remains the same: Local residents aren’t happy about the influx of people, concerned that their more rural communities won’t be able to manage a coronavirus outbreak with medical supply shortages, less access to food and groceries, and stretched hospitals.
Here’s where the wealthy have taken refuge.
Manhattanites were quick to flee to their favourite vacation spots, such as Hudson Valley and the Catskills in upstate New York.
Consultant Bettina Prentice told Bloomberg she and her family of four self-quarantined in their Hudson Valley weekend home after discovering her husband dined with someone who later tested positive for the coronavirus. She said they’re relying on online retailers for food deliveries.
“We are looking forward to return to normalcy,” Prentice said.
Not having a second home upstate isn’t stopping other New Yorkers, though. Rental rates have more than tripled in the Hudson Valley since the pandemic hit, Robert Frank reported for CNBC.
“This is unprecedented,” Delyse Berry of Hudson Valley real-estate advisory and management firm Upstate Down told CNBC. “It’s like a panic. I have never placed so many people in rentals in one week, and at these prices, ever. Even in the summer.”
They also headed to the Hamptons, where local residents tried to discourage them from coming.
Despite residents shaming Manhattanites on social media and highlighting their lack of hospital beds, NYC dwellers are still seeking solace from the pandemic in their Hamptons homes, reported Caroline Levitt for Business Insider.
“Coming out here, however pleasant in the abstract, doesn’t get us away from whatever we are running away from,” Diane Saatchi, a Hamptons broker, told Levitt. “It’s not a panacea out here.”
Those who don’t have homes in the Hamptons are seeking rentals, causing the rental market to soar, reported Business Insider’s Dominic-Madori Davis. Nest Seekers International agent Dylan Eckardt told Amy Gamerman of the Wall Street Journal that he has never “seen a rental market like this” in his career. “We’re renting stuff that never rents in March,” he said. “There’s not even a price for it, because it doesn’t happen.”
Some brokers are even avoiding rentals, Levitt wrote, as owners are worried that renters will infest their homes with germs and possibly never leave.
But NYC residents are standing their ground. “The posts that say, ‘Don’t come out!’ are awful,” Nancy Held, an Upper East Sider, told Levitt. “We are homeowners like everyone else. I don’t feel like I’m imposing on anyone else’s space. I don’t want to be with anyone more than they want my city breath near them.”
Urbanites in the east have also flocked to coastal New England, especially Massachusetts’ wealthy enclaves — like their second homes in Nantucket.
But it’s also been popular this spring, as wealthy urbanites took refuge there to ride out the pandemic, Caroline Kitchener reported for The Lily, a product of The Washington Post. Locals have noticed a line of private jets at the airport and BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes with licence plates from New York and Connecticut.
Nantucket is a “medical desert,” with only 14 hospital beds, three ventilators, zero intensive care units, and a shortage of doctors, Gary Shaw, the CEO of Nantucket Cottage Hospital, told Kitchener.
Gov. Charlie Baker asked Massachusetts residents with second homes on the island to stay on the mainland, and Nantuck Cottage Hospital itself released a statement warning “anyone who has come here to shelter from other cities or towns” that Nantucket has limited medical resources and “a surge of cases could quickly overwhelm our hospital.”
And so many big city residents migrated to Cape Cod that thousands of locals signed a petition for bridges to be closed.
The petition was meant to prevent any more visitors – specifically New York City-based second homeowners – from coming to the area, Davis wrote.
“Stop the spread of Covid-19,” the petition, started by South Yarmouth resident Beth Hickman, reads. “Close the bridges. Only year round residents, medical personnel. Trucks that deliver essential supplies. While we love our tourists and summer residents, this is not the time to come to the Cape, our hospital can’t handle it. We only have 2 small hospitals here on Cape, and limited medical staff.”
One Manhattan resident who has a second home in Cape Cod total local publication Norwich Bulletin that he and his family experienced hostility upon arriving in Cape Cod, even though they self-quarantined after their initial arrival on March 12. They have since left Cape Cod for the Berkshires.
On March 27, The Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, Cape Cod Healthcare and a County Administrator published a joint letter asking second homeowners who are migrating to the area to self-quarantine for 14 days and to bring all of their “needed supplies.”
Martha’s Vineyard has also seen an influx of wealthy part-time residents, who have reportedly been flying in on private jets.
Martha’s Vineyard, another Massachusetts island, is a magnet for millionaires, CEOs, and celebrities, who flock there every summer. This year, the wealthy have started arriving in the spring.
Private jets had been “pouring in” to the small airport on Martha’s Vineyard early on in the pandemic, Brian Packish, a local councillor, told The Boston Globe
“There’s no better place to self-distance than Martha’s Vineyard,” Gary A. Jenkins, a New York entertainment lawyer who has been spending summers on the Vineyard since he was five years old, told The Globe. “I can sit on my front porch, smoke a cigar, and not see anybody.”
Islanders are concerned the influx will spark grocery shortages and put a strain on local medical resources and have taken to message boards to deter part-time residents from coming, reported The Globe.
Islands in Maine, like Bar Harbour, have faced similar problems to the islands in Massachusetts.
Bar Harbour, located on Mount Desert Island in Maine, is home to about 5,000 residents and has long been a refuge for the rich and famous.
Tourist season doesn’t start until May, but residents of Bar Harbour and nearby island towns told Bill Trotter of local publication Bangor Daily News that they have seen more out-of-state vehicles than normal for spring.
In late March, Trotter wrote, the town’s official website posted a notice that said the council “appreciates our visitor and tourist-based businesses, but at this time we recommend that everyone stay home and avoid unnecessary travel. The town’s tourist services such as food and bathroom facilities are very limited.”
North Haven, another small island off the coast of Maine which is only accessible by boat or plane, would have seen the same problem if it hadn’t voted to ban its own part-time residents. After receiving calls from summer homeowners that they intended to shelter in North Haven during the pandemic, the island was quick to enact its travel ban, reported Kathryn Miles for Politico.
Out west, the wealthy flocked to Sun Valley in Idaho, disrupting local life.
Located three hours outside of Boise, Idaho, Sun Valley is known as a jet-set ski destination, Davis reported. It sees wealthy and famous visitors year-round, having been a hotspot among celebrities for nearly a century.
It’s also proven to be a getaway for the wealthy during the pandemic. Blaine County, where Sun Valley is located, is consequently dealing with over 450 reported cases of the coronavirus among its 22,000 residents, Davis wrote.
The outbreak in the county, as noted by Amanda Holpuch of The Guardian, has overwhelmed the local medical system and has caused food and medical equipment shortages.
They have also flown in to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to shelter in their vacation homes there.
It’s also where wealthy families are taking refuge amid the pandemic, Justin Farrell reported for The New York Times. Some are even bringing their own ventilators and other medical equipment along with them, a local doctor told Farrell.
“It’s disgraceful to see people not understand the severity of the problems,” an airport worker told Farrell. “It makes it uneasy to provide the services we do to these kinds of people. I live paycheck to paycheck and I don’t have much saved up in my account to handle” a serious illness.
In late March, the county’s health officer, Travis Riddell,said, “Nonresident homeowners are strongly encouraged to leave or not travel to Teton County.”
Wealthy Brits in the UK have also been escaping the big cities, favouring the English countryside. Some fled to their second homes in the county of Devon.
The rural South West England county of Devon has the best quality of life of anywhere in London and Wales, a study found.
Wealthy Brits who have second homes there have reportedly been sneaking in at night, causing an uproar among locals who fear that an influx of part-time residents could overwhelm the area’s resources, according to The Telegraph’s Hayley Dixon and Charles Hymas.
Consequently, some authorities have proposed setting up “roadblocks” and “checkpoints” to prevent more people from coming to area.
“I am deeply disappointed at reports I have heard over the weekend of the ongoing arrival of second homeowners under the cover of darkness across the county to avoid roadblocks, and have raised this matter directly with the police as well,” Selaine Saxby, the member of Parliament (MP) for North Devon, said in an open letter to the Devon County Council.
And Londoners deserted their city for The Cotswolds.
The Cotswolds, a popular vacation spot of bucolic picturesque towns and villages, have attracted many celebrities seeking some quiet time in the countryside.
Victoria Beckham is currently quarantining there with her family, according to Davis. Police in the area said they have caught people coming to the area during the pandemic from as far as London, which is nearly 100 miles away, the Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard reported on April 9.
This influx could be from Easter weekend travellers, but reports confirming this haven’t been released yet. However, an April 5 analysis by the Times of London found that there were higher-than-average rates of the coronavirus in places where there are many holiday homes, including the Cotswolds.