Co-Living As a Pillar of Community | Co-Living Build Community
“Co-living can support a broader agenda to help cities build community”
The multi-generation house and similar schemes are part of a wider effort to embed social interaction and well being into our development of city communities. The Mayor’s Draft London Plan is encouraging high density developments along transport nodes in and around London and in town centers which have more mixed use components within the developments and much greater degrees of communal interaction.
More advanced Build to Rent schemes currently under construction in London are closely following the North American model. This is a mature model honed within the metropolises of New York, Chicago and Boston and now implemented by national agencies with specific brands across the United States. The model can range from blocks of 300 to 1,500 dwellings designed with a greater in-built sense of community than conventional blocks for rent or sale, with shared communal, leisure and work spaces and internal/external amenity incorporating highly upgraded technological specifications. Interiors could be part of the answer to creating flexibility to meet the changing needs of society and maintain wellbeing through life.
The Build to Rent sector is currently leading on this with the North American model requiring robust low maintenance but high specification and high design interiors which attract and retain would-be renters. Communal amenities are ultra-modern, complemented by high-quality services and the development of an identifiable community culture, supported by a building facilitator. This approach has already begun to seep into the mainstream housing market for all but affordable tenures (which is interior design and communal amenities and the Pocket Living product, a discounted sale model in London, is a prime example of this fluidity of ideas in practice.
More conventional forms of housing also need to evolve with the creation of a popular typology with an interior flexible enough to be a lifetime home without looking like one. This greater flexibility would allow evolving families to adapt and stay together longer, rather than moving home multiple times to slightly larger (or smaller) accommodation in response to changing circumstances. It would also enable the elderly to feel ‘at home’ living alongside other members of the family, creating some of the opportunities for inter generational living mentioned earlier in the paper.
“Demand for co-living is growing in response to changing patterns of work and living”
Changing patterns of work, leisure and social participation are rekindling an interest in co-living, taking an approach to housing with roots in 1960s Danish co-housing co-operatives and adapting it to meet the pressures and opportunities of modern city-living. Co-living typologies are emerging through a need and desire to live affordably but also to share and interact with others. Co-living implies an intentional community of individual living spaces clustered around shared space.
This form of housing, currently a tiny proportion of the housing supply, has the potential to represent a key ingredient of London’s hous – ing offer, if designed appropriately. It can support migratory patterns of work and provides renters with short-term, low-cost solutions while looking for their permanent situ – ation. 1 Smaller sleeping and living quarters within individual residents’ apartments are supplemented by generous communal facilities such as shared kitchens and lounges, laundry, concierge and storage. These facili – ties are further enhanced by place-specific lifestyle offers such as gyms, libraries, rentable event spaces and cinema rooms. A broader application of co-living is inherent in other housing forms, some of which are not specifically reflected in current policy and yet are proving to be successful in meeting the needs of certain groups in society. A form of co-living has existed for many years in our methods for housing the elderly.
Traditionally this has involved corralling largely unrelated groups of older people into individual units with degrees of care and institutional shared facilities. This model, perhaps fortuitously, is becoming a thing of the past, largely because of funding cutbacks. In recent years we have seen more empowering alternatives emerge (albeit very small in number), including co-housing communities for older residents. One such example is New Ground Co-housing in north London, which includes 25 private apartments placed around shared facilities. The design process was co-created by members of the Older Women’s Co-housing (OWCH) group, with a strong focus on creating a sense of community and shared ownership.
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