The chronic shortage of affordable homes is the root cause of the current housing crisis. For many years, housing supply has not kept up with the additional demand generated by increasing life expectancy, urbanisation and the rise in one-person households. In England alone, it is estimated that between 232,000 to 300,000 new units per year are required, which is more than double the current supply.
In their attempts to increase the supply of affordable housing, successive governments have continued to prioritise homeownership, which has become increasingly difficult to achieve for growing sections of the population, particularly young people. More innovative housing solutions are desperately needed and, luckily, there are some promising solutions being scaled-up across the globe. These innovations depart from conventions in various ways ranging from size, design, materials used, and their community focus.
The outdated ideal of homeownership is increasingly being questioned by start-up housing providers. The company WeLive, for example, is bringing back ‘co-living’ for the 21st century, by offering communal living spaces that challenge the isolation of traditional apartment living. Given the popularity of its communal office counterpart WeWork, WeLive expects to generate $605.9 million in annual revenue in just three years. Similarly, the quirkily named Fizzy Living promises to “reinvent renting”, and now has apartment buildings in 5 locations across London. Similar to Chototel and Welive, Fizzy has recognised our need for more flexible living, and offers tenants flexible monthly lease terms. Fizzy’s target demographic is clearly defined: young professionals seeking high-quality private rental accommodation. Chototel too is committed to fostering a sense of community for its residents: our pilot project, based near Mumbai, India Includes a community kitchen, a crèche and a children’s play area. Being part of the ‘generation rent’ is now an opportunity to explore new ways of living; ways that are cheaper, more social, and more flexible.
In an era of unprecedented population growth, housing shortages and threats to our environment, the quest to build smaller homes is an obvious solution. Luckily, this trend increasingly ties in with our living preferences. Well-designed compact spaces are becoming popular amongst the next generation of homeowners who crave flexibility, convenience and affordability in every aspect of their lives, from the music they listen to the homes they live in. A 2015 survey by the National Association of Home Builders, for example, revealed that millennials are driving down home size. A major driver of this new trend is that, with the advent of innovative technologies, we simply don’t need as much space. The general clutter that covered the walls of our parent’s homes, the shelves of CDs, DVDs, and books have become a thing of the past as we can now access all the same content online via services such as Spotify, Netflix, and Kindle. Yo! Homes is one of the many companies taking advantage of this trend. The company has designed homes which maximise their compact 40-square-metre floorplan. Plans include a mechanised bed that can be lowered over a sunken seating area in the lounge, a breakfast bar that slides out from the kitchen wall and a dining table that folds up from the floor. It seems low-maintenance and low-costs are simply more valuable to us than owning unnecessary possessions.
Using Empty Properties
As of November 2016, there are 610,123 empty properties in England. Of these, nearly a third have not been occupied for six months or more. In the capital, this problem is being exacerbated by the phenomenon known as “buy-to-leave”, where rich investors,purchase property and leave it empty, not bothering to collect rent money while adding to the nation’s housing shortage. Clearly, more effective use of such properties can make a significant contribution to supply. The empty homes charity is one organisation campaigning for more empty homes to be brought into use for people in housing need. Alongside proving advice to those seeking to bring empty homes back into use, the organisation researches and tests ideas for bringing long-term empty homes back into use for those in housing need. In looking for sites to expand into within the UK, Chototel is working with local councils to target brownfield sites in need of redevelopment.
With the UK housing crisis showing no signs of slowing and a public sector failing to adequately respond, it appears there are a few companies out there presenting us with innovative alternatives. What is clear is that the homes needed to tackle the housing crisis will not be based on the traditional model of homeownership. The future homes needed to address the housing crisis will be community-centred, compact and seek to use the resources we already have.