When we look back at human history, it’s clear the concept of ‘shared living’ is nothing new. Ever since the Stone Age, communal living was key to sustain human civilisation. Following the boom of the sharing economy in recent years, the modern interpretation of shared living has become increasingly popular with the potential to address some of the most pressing issues facing our housing sector today.
- Affordable housing alone cannot satisfy the needs of the growing urban population;
- The decreasing sense of community and an increasing sense of loneliness may result in more mental health issues, which currently costs UK £94 billion a year, according to OECD;
- There is a lack of diversified housing supply to meet the changing needs of millennials, the ageing population, and minority groups.
Shared living in practice
Shared living encourages people to live in a community where living space and facilities are available for others to use and enjoy. This can take the form of co-living, co-housing, and intergenerational residences.
Sitting within renovated or purpose-built buildings, co-living spaces are often made up of separate living units where residents share common spaces (e.g. kitchens and lounges) whilst having their own private rooms. Tenants from different units often have access to communal facilities such as gyms, dining areas or event spaces. Co-living spaces are increasingly popular in big cities like London and New York, especially among millennials who tend to prefer more affordable and sociable environments, with relatively shorter-term tenancies. Co-housing often provides longer-term housing solutions where people can build and manage their community together, with each household having their self-contained, private home in addition to shared facilities and spaces.
Intergenerational living has also gained traction in recent years, and with good reason. The idea behind this is to encourage the younger and older generation to live together in supportive communities, where the needs of both groups are acknowledged and met. The Netherlands is leading the way in this where projects such as Humanitas Deventer offer students living space in exchange for 30 hours of their time per month caring for the elderly co-residents. This can both alleviate the financial pressures of the students while providing their elderly counterparts with companionship and social care.
Benefits and impact
Contemporary shared living models provide potential solutions to some of the biggest housing challenges, such as unaffordable rent, loneliness and isolation, and the ageing population. By encouraging people to live together, they may find they can lead healthier, happier and more sustainable lifestyles. Meanwhile, the diversity in shared living means there is a flexibility and adaptability to meet changing needs, aspirations and lifestyles of urban dwellers.
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