With technology, a newer generation of real estate buyers, and the vast influx of population growth within American cities, housing affordability and traditional values of real estate are changing. A current trend, starting in 2018, impacting real estate and infrastructure within American cities is the idea of co-living. Co-living, an idea involving multiple persons living in a shared unit with a personal bedroom but shared commons such as the kitchen and bathroom, is challenging the traditional norms, while sought as being an improved alternative way of living. Although this idea of living can be scrutinized and labeled as “adult dorms,” the practicality and benefits are challenging America’s traditional, capitalistic, consumerist norms and at the same time, proving to be an influential force socially, economically, and environmentally. Co-living is increasingly popular in this time period because of many factors, including the decrease in housing affordability and the changing values between the generations of our species.
The older generation had a fixed construct, almost a life template to follow, which could be summarized as achieving secure long-term employment, getting married, buying a home, having children, and retirement with a secure pension. However the newer generation, making up most of the real estate market, seem to desire flexibility and mobility as the economy and job market have shifted. This generation may not focus so much on getting married and having children or to purchase a house and be tied down to a mortgage. The options are more limitless than they once were, due mostly to the rapid advancement of technology within the 21st century. This generation may gravitate towards a more communal way of living, especially as housing affordability gradually decreases in cities, so they can in turn, save money for experiences outside their home. Moreover, the recent coronavirus outbreak, partly due to the inaction of the American government, has led to our nation experiencing a national recession and has exposed many other societal and structural issues within our nation. One of these issues is the financial struggle, more specifically, the lack of savings that most Americans have available to them, highlighted in the fact that “2,300,000 households failed to pay rent in April, 2020 alone, a 135% increase” (NMHC). With that in mind, and the plausible theory that this virus will be contained in the near future, Co-living is a solution by providing cost-effective housing, where human interaction is emphasized and creativity can prosper.
Because the population influx within cities is constantly growing and according to the Future of Cities Youtube Video, “in the year 2050, it is projected that 70% of the world’s population will be living in cities,” cities around the globe are at risk of losing a sense of community due to the rapid changes and population growth that will occur, as one could feel anonymous and isolated in a big city. A sense of community and feeling a part of groups is necessary, psychologically, for humans to thrive. Co-living allows the opportunity for different people with altering perspectives to come together, and even in some cases, are encouraged to collaborate with each other.
A framework within the 21st century arised that is harmful to our environment. This framework is based on the construct that one is not successful unless they inhabit a large house and have an abundance of material goods, affected by our capitalistic society as well as the rise of social media. I argue that co-living embodies ideals of permaculture, the term coined by David Holmgren, emphasizes sustainable and communal living while decreasing the dominant culture of capitalism and consumerism. The sustainability argument would derive on the basis that co-living maximizes the space to the fullest potential by multiple persons inhabiting said space. Which is increasingly important as cities grow and further relates to another idea cultivated by Richard Rogers, an architect and theorist. This idea is called “dense cities” which are framed as having multi-functional buildings to inhabit a large population while reducing humans’ waste. Co-living presents a persuasive juncture as our future seems compact and reliant on efficient, sustainable ways of living.
Furthermore, co-living will only be possible if state legislation alters zoning policies as supply for housing does not meet the demand by the people. With a change of zoning policies, co-living will be able to flourish. An example would be Oregon’s recent bill passed to reduce single-family home zones in neighborhoods.