While more people come into the world every day, the size of the earth remains exactly the same. Today, 55% of the world’s population lives in urban areas, and the European Commision expects this to increase to 68% by 2050.
A growing demand to create space combined with our increasingly refined lifestyle is creating an issue: where can we put all the people? The answer is co-living.
But our interpretation of this word and the connotations attached to it are in need of some alteration. Co-living does not need to be five generations living under one roof, nor does it need to be plush student hall-style apartments with gyms, bars and swimming pools.
Co-living can quite simply be turning your spare room into a home. Creating homes is more important than ever given that Generation Rent are leaving their support networks for jobs in the city and renting for significantly longer periods of time than their parents - potentially even renting for life.
The connotations of co-living
Groups such as The Collective are the latest to hijack the word co-living, but these complexes aren't necessarily practical or sustainable as a permanent home and they are extremely expensive. Spending £1,500 on a studio flat is a little out of reach for the vast majority of graduates and young professionals moving to London on entry-level salaries. Even if it was within reach financially, is it sustainable to force people into tiny spaces?
We often talk about “Rabbit Hutch” Britain, not an undeserving nickname, given that the UK has the smallest average living spaces in the EU, according to The Guardian. We are renting for longer periods of time and while a box room might have been manageable for a few years at uni, it’s not a realistic long-term option.
While a standard house share is something most of us have muddled through for a couple of years at some stage, how do we make this a viable option for Generation Rent, who will likely need to stay in house shares much longer term?
In theory, there are more than enough rooms, however, the numbers simply don’t add up.
That’s because 85% of those under-occupied homes are owned homes - only 8% of under-occupied homes sit in the rental sector. Co-living can be as simple as unlocking those free rooms and converting them into co-living spaces.
The question is, how do we convince the owners of the 85% of under-occupied spaces to consider the idea of allowing those spaces to become occupied?
Some key things that might put someone off renting out a spare bedroom, or renting one, is the possibility of signing a lease which will trap you with people you don’t want to live with.
We all want to live our lives with meaning at the core. Whatever purpose means to you, for some it might be coming home and cooking a new recipe together, for another it might be sharing a takeaway - regardless, being around people who make you feel comfortable and valued is essential to living a life with meaning. You shouldn’t have to wait until the next visit to your family to feel that.
What tech can bring to the housing crisis
Tech and AI can solve a big problem here, as AI can take house sharing beyond scrolling through an endless list of bedrooms, signing tenancy agreements based on hope and crossing your fingers for friendly flatmates. The AI used by Badi, for example, pairs people to house shares based on lifestyle preferences and personality to create house shares that become long-term, functional homes.
For a landlord, this creates a stable ship with consistent returns, while for renters this provides the opportunity to have a home, rather than a room.
While some of us are more social than others, we are ultimately social creatures that need interactions and care to feel happy. For people moving from further afield, a lonely house share can lead to unhappiness which impacts our mental health and our productivity amongst a multitude of other things.
On the flip side, a house share full of friends offers a stable foundation for us to build happy lives in, whether we were born in the city or came from further away. Badi is on a mission to finish the days of spare rooms by providing a hassle-free, secure and reliable rental service.
With this refreshed approach, we can bring like minded people together rather than just allocating people to spaces.
We urgently need to create more co-living options for people living in the UK, to suit all budgets and lifestyles, and tech is the only way to make supply meet demand.
The supply of urban housing is scarce worldwide: 54% of the world's population of 7.2 billion live in cities, and by 2050, this is expected to increase to 66% of a predicted world population of 9.6 billion - according to data taken from the United Nations global urbanisation report.
One of the solutions we are working on at Badi is developing ways to create properties specifically for functional, practical and homely co-living, where the perks of your home are the people you live with, rather than having your bedding changed once a week by a ghost cleaner.
People are the most crucial part of any economy and attracting talent to the UK is essential to the country’s development. London is one of the most unaffordable cities in the world - co-living is an indispensable part of making living here an achievable goal for the next generation of talent, and sustainable for ever-increasing urban populations.
*Steven Hiltermann is the UK general manager of Badi, a rental platform which aims to simplify the process for landlords and tenants.