Co-Living in the UK: moving beyond generation rent

17 October 2018, 14:44
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Communal living, or co-living, may conjure an array of images. To some it may be the hippy communes of the 1960s, to others a student flat with unwashed dishes stacked high and cleaning standards kept low. However, with changes in family structures and people feeling younger for longer, it seems we are moving towards a redefined co-living model; one which doesn’t much resemble either of these. Out of what is often presented as a gloomy UK housing picture come opportunities, not only for “generation rent” as the younger generation is sometimes portrayed, but also for those further on in life.

It has been more than forty-years since Mrs Thatcher spoke of a “property-owning democracy” so creating an ambition for a generation to own their own home. Like almost everything in our world, how we choose to live has changed considerably since then. More of us rent than before, although the cost incentives to buy are higher than ever with lower interest rates and with property prices rising year on year this trend is set to continue.

Whatsmore, the make-up of the household and the family have changed. The average age of first time home buyers has moved older than the bracket of 25-34 year olds where this former rite of passage once sat. Because of this you’d have to be living under the rock to not hear the phrase “housing-crisis” echoing around the pages of newspapers. However, where one door closes, another door opens, in this case a front door.

For many people in the UK, 'moving forward' in life has been synonyomous” with owning their own home, and thus living in a shared space later in life is sometimes perceived as “tantamount to going backwards”, so says David Michael, MD of a cohousing company. At the same time, the number of us living alone has climbed to almost one third of households, being especially prominent in those aged between 45 and 64.

But the tide may well be turning on the idea that the pursuit of finding a home is a journey travelled alone. A study by the website Spareroom.com found that the number of people aged between 45-54 looking for people to live with in shared accommodation rose a full 300% between 2009 and 2014, with those aged 35-44 seeing a 186% increase over the same period . Matt Hutchison, the director of the website has noted that flat or house sharing in your forties and beyond is increasingly common, leading us to “rethink our aspirations”.


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