While the U.S. economy shrank by 3.5 percent in 2020, spending on home improvements and repairs grew more than 3 percent, to nearly $420 billion, as households modified living spaces for work, school and leisure in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Improving America’s Housing 2021, a new report by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. The report noted while many professional remodeling projects came to a halt when the pandemic hit, DIY renovations surged. The sudden flexibility of remote work also increased demand for larger homes and yards in lower-cost and less dense areas of the country. The result: the unexpected strength of the home remodeling market made 2020 the 10th consecutive year of expansion for the industry. However, Kermit Baker, Director of the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies, said the pandemic disrupted several long-term trends. “From 2010 to 2019, homeowners largely relied on professional contractors, and remodeling activity was heavily concentrated in coastal metros,” he said. “But in 2020, amid concerns about having contractors in the home, DIY projects gained new popularity, and remodeling activity shifted to lower-cost metros where larger shares of younger households—traditionally the most active do-it-yourselfers—could afford to own homes.” The report said in March 2020, 60 percent of respondents to one homeowner survey had begun at least one DIY maintenance or improvement project in the previous two to three weeks; by early May, the share had jumped to nearly 80 percent. Additionally, during the pandemic, many urban renters purchased homes—a transition that often begins a new cycle of improvement projects—in outlying communities in search of safer living conditions, more space, and lower housing costs.