A few months ago, our COO made a the following statement at Tech Open Air:
In the future, we will all be homeless.
… what? Thankfully, he didn’t mean we’d all be living on the streets. Rather, he was suggesting that the idea of a single, permanent home in a fixed geographical location would soon become extinct.
Definitely a bold assertion, but was it an accurate prediction? To what extent?
Financial Realities: Money, or The Lack Thereof
Last month I grudgingly made the decision to move out of London, the city that had been my 'home' for the past 3 years.
Like many other young people, I found myself back in my parents’ house, wondering ‘how did I get here?’. The answer was obvious, simple, and sung straight from the Millennial hymn sheet: money. London had finally become too expensive for me to sustain. On the other hand, my mother, by my age, was already a homeowner — in London, nonetheless. ‘It was a different world back then...’
Growing Up Differently: Suspended Adulthood
There’s no denying that prohibitively high costs are preventing many young people from buying property — the typical signifier of a home. But maybe there’s more to it…
When our COO forecasted a future of homelessness, he pointed to the concept of suspended adulthood. This is a new intermediate phase between adolescence and adulthood, where we essentially take time to identify a route into adulthood. We experiment with our careers; we travel and explore; we work out what we want to do with our lives.
Access is The New Ownership
Happening alongside this new stage of life are wider shifts in the way we consume. The blossoming sharing economy is emblematic of a culture where ownership matters much less — the new order is access and experiences. Coupled with a persistent housing crisis, it’s inevitable that these new attitudes will affect the way we approach homes.
Companies like The Collective are offering a new way of living more in touch with emerging trends. At Old Oak, members rent a studio apartment, but also get access to amazing shared spaces and daily community events. Your monthly fee doesn’t buy you a room — it affords you a lifestyle built around connection and experiences.
The sharing economy triumphs in providing us with access to more products and services that we would ever be able to own — and without the restrictions and limitations of ownership. Whilst it provides a level of security and investment, owning a home can be extremely limiting — financially and in terms of mobility.
The New Work Order
Gone are the days of the job for life, of the 9-5 in the office cubicle. There have been two major shifts in the world of work that further threaten the primacy of the home-ownership model.
The first is location independence — many jobs are now becoming location independent, enabling people to work from home, or indeed anywhere in the world. Figures vary, but it’s estimated that around 40% of US workers now work remotely (source). Provided you can catch a wifi signal, chances are you’ll be able to do your job just as well as you could in an office. Without a fixed geographical location for work, there’s even less reason to be tied to down to one location. Given that travel and employment are now a lot more compatible, it’s time to explore models of living for more transient populations.
The second shift is the rise of the gig economy. People are moving away from full-time, long-term jobs towards ad-hoc ‘gigs’, short term employment opportunities that provide variety and mobility. This new approach to work makes it a lot harder to buy into the old system of home-ownership and mortgages.
Creating Homes For The Future: Where Are We Now?
In 2016, buying a home is financially out of reach for the vast majority of young people. It’s also restrictive, and out of date with changing lifestyles. We’re in the midst of various paradigm shifts regarding consumption and work, but the ways we create homes haven’t quite caught up.
We need to start looking at different ways of living for the future. What should a home look like in 2017? In 2027? What is a home, anyway?
Does a home have to entail a level of permanence? How much? How do you factor this into a new culture where people want to be more mobile?
Things to think about as we find our feet.
Find a Place For Community
In the move away from long-term home ownership, it’s also worth asking about community. When you live in a place for a long time, you put down roots. You get to know the people around you. Ownership, to some extent, facilitates this.
If we’re becoming more nomadic, how can we ensure that community — and human connectedness — survive as part of the way we live? We’re already living in a world where people feel increasingly lonely and disconnected, and without new models this might only get worse.
Can we create ways of living that allow people to be part of connected communities without being ‘tied down’? This, for me, is the biggest challenge we face in designing homes for the future.
The Collective Old Oak is one example of a new approach. Working on a rental model, it allows for transience and mobility, but still offers a community living experience. You don’t have to be a long-term resident at Old Oak to feel part of the community — from your first day you can attend one of the many daily events and socials to meet and connect with others. So whether you’re there for 9 months or 2 years, are new to London or a veteran of the city, you are able to live in a connected way from day one.
Newspapers talk about a housing crisis in financial terms, but it goes beyond that. In 2016 we're working differently. We're consuming differently. We're growing up differently...
Our homes should reflect that.
Written by Grace Waters