As more and more people make their way back to urban cores, the demand for housing in these major cities is skyrocketing. This leads to equally skyrocketing rents, rents which many people are struggling to pay despite earning decent money working in respectable fields. In cities like New York or San Francisco, it’s been an ongoing challenge for decades, with the issue existing in the form of an elephant in the room. City governments – fearful of alienating developers by enacting stricter rent control laws – are not doing enough to ensure affordable housing. Perhaps this is for the better because, as it turns out, it’s entities in the private sector which are stepping in to make it happen.
The solution being presented in many major cities around the world – with a markedly positive reaction – is what is referred to as coliving spaces. Also known as shared housing, it’s a model which might seem strange to those too young to remember a time when such arrangements were somewhat common in major cities. Back then, they were known as boarding houses. In this model, every resident gets their own private room – furnished and cleaned regularly – but will share the bathroom, kitchen, laundry facilities, and commons with other residents. This equates to a respectable standard of living priced hundreds less per month than alternative forms of housing in that area.
The old model of shared housing in big cities began to diminish in the mid-20th century as more and more people moved to the suburbs. There was ample supply for living space in urban cores due to this transition and consequently, it wasn’t inconceivable to afford a one-bedroom apartment in downtown San Francisco and other major cities on a single layman’s salary. People soon forgot what it was like to compete for quality housing, but eventually, as the allure of urban life returned, the demand increased and rent has been skyrocketing ever since.
By providing shared housing priced hundreds less per month per renter, coliving companies like Common are changing the face of modern urban living. The inherent differences in structural requirements for this kind of housing model versus the more familiar forms, such as standalone houses and multi-room apartments, is going to mean a change in the types of buildings architects will be tasked with designing.
In all honesty, the short-term impact coliving is having on architecture is likely minor, as most coliving developments are utilizing existing buildings – former offices and apartment complexes – and modifying the interior to accommodate shared housing. However, as time goes on and new buildings are commissioned in big cities, coliving will be incorporated into the design from the get-go.
Architects of this future will be tasked with creating inviting commons spaces connected to private rooms, in a layout which is both conducive to cooperation among dozens if not 100s of residents but also one which enables them to do their own thing among each other without interfering with one another. It’s an expansion of the standalone home model, but on a scale like an apartment building. Yet the details will themselves be far cries from those found in houses and apartments.
The growing demand for shared housing provided by companies like Common is a development which will alter the face of the architectural industry. It’s simply a matter of time, but there’s no reason why the architects of today can’t get started now. After all, the seemingly never-ending expansion of shared housing is an opportunity to seize on a market which, as of now, has yet to be saturated with architects eager to be involved.