PHL Summary: Co-Living and the Common Good (2 of 2)

The Royal Society of Arts, with support from The Collective, recently published several essays from leading voices about the challenges and potential of co-living in the United Kingdom. Here are summaries of what was presented in Co-Living and the Common Good. (2 of 2)

The fundamentals of a home and how we can design for wellbeing

By: Manisha Patel

Our demographics have shifted dramatically as the nuclear family has been supplanted in favor of individualism and alternative lifestyles. Most housing stock across the world does not yet reflect these societal transitions, and new housing that is more inclusive and accommodating of our present-day demography is needed.

These changes are creating more interest in co-living as a housing concept in the United Kingdom, as it satisfies the need “to live affordably” and to “share and interact with others.” Currently, this housing typology is a “tiny fraction” of the offering in the London Metro Area, but it has the potential to grow much more if designed to meet a wide variety of everyday people’s needs.

Right now, the typologies we see in the co-living sector are narrow and could be greatly expanded to encompass a greater proportion of the population’s needs. One area that’s fertile for expansion is multi-generational co-living, and there’s an example facility in London that’s successfully housing several generations of the same family under one roof. In effect, it is addressing monumental challenges that today’s multigenerational families face, including child care, elder care, and growing economic strains that inhibit new household formation.

A wide array of co-living spaces, including multigenerational housing arrangements, help “embed social interaction and well-being into the development of city communities.” Technological advancements also can aid extending the shelf life of co-living spaces and help them evolve to fit the residents’ needs as time passes — and help attain higher levels of sustainability.

The world is changing, and we will all need to adapt to higher density residential development. Co-living is part of that solution, and helps city planners and residents alike “strike a balance” between our need to interact with others while maintaining our privacy.

Co-living and housing equity

By: Jonathan Schifferes and Atif Shafique

The authors advocate a new type of relationship with our homes — -one that rejects the present-day financialization of housing and instead embraces homes as “sources of community wealth and enablers of participation.” While they see co-living as part of the solution to tackle our growing social and financial challenges, they caution the co-living movement against “recreating the inequalities of the dominant homeownership model.”

The Royal Society of Arts, or the RSA, launched its Housing Equity Program “to identify practical solutions to the challenges faced by citizens and communities in the UK’s housing system.” The word equity is purposefully used to encompass both financial and socio-economic concepts as they relate to housing. As it stands, our present-day housing models have failed to evolve with our needs as a society and to play a key role in a creating a more level social and economic playing field for all.

Instead, they propose redefining the approach to financial equity from one that sees homes “as speculative assets to one that recognizes houses as sources of collective and community wealth.” The financialization of housing has created a system whereby inequality is being entrenched through speculation, lending and other flows of capital into the housing sector. Maintaining property values is central to nearly any policy agenda for electoral class, as housing is a major component of wealth and the wider economy.

The authors instead propose community land trusts, co-living and other mutual homeownership models to give people access to housing while giving them a financial stake and protecting them against speculation.

To promote more social equity in housing, this article proposes expanding what they call “the narrow focus on shelter” and instead looking at housing as way to connect people to social and economic opportunities. An integrated approach that recognizes the links between housing and the wider economy, they believe, would be much more effective.

Co-living is then explored as a way to contribute to housing equity. In the financial realm, the flexibility that co-living offers can help create a new financial relationship with housing. Co-living as a housing prototype has the ability to “broaden and diversify what we mean by ownership in a housing context.” In the same way, the authors explore how co-living can help improve social equity by opening up housing opportunities to underserved groups who have had difficulty accessing affordable housing.

The authors conclude that co-living as a housing model faces a shared challenge in “demonstrating that they can create inclusive instead of exclusive communities that contribute to the development, vibrancy and wellbeing of the wider place in which they reside.”

Policymakers can agree that today’s housing system in the UK is dysfunctional and has failed to evolve with the times. This piece, akin to others essays in this publication, encourage people to consider the interconnectedness of housing to the wider world of social, economic and other community infrastructure.

Co-living is just emerging in the UK, but the public and private sector alike should consider it as a housing model that has the potential to help meet national policy objectives.

Source: RSA

This is one of two articles that summarizes Co-Living and the Common Good. For more information on PUREHOUSE LAB, a professional hub for the co-living community globally, visit