The United Nations projects that 2.5 billion more people will live in cities by 2050. This will fundamentally change how we live our lives and the structures we live them in.
More than 90% of the world’s population is currently concentrated on about 10% of our land surface, and this density is only increasing. The explosion in urban populations will cause price-per-square-footage to skyrocket, prompting urban dwellers to rethink both the size and functionality of their homes.
For example, in order to augment smaller home units, we will continue to see a rise in shared spaces. Don’t have enough room to entertain? Imagine renting a dining room for a few hours via a service like Airbnb. This is common practice in many parts of the world, like Morocco, where communal ovens allow many families to have access to facilities no one home could afford alone.
This style of a la carte space leasing follows on from existing trends. We already share our office spaces with strangers, but co-working will soon morph into co-living. Concepts like WeLive, WeWork’s latest venture, will support vibrant but affordable lifestyles as our cities become more dense. It will also push our norms for how much we are willing to share. People who cannot compromise on privacy will have to get accustomed to living in increasingly smaller units, while the rest of us will get more comfortable with sharing.
In this way, the importance we place on privacy vs. connection in our homes will be reshaped. Much like the hippie communes of the 1970s, where each person or family has their own private space but shares a kitchen, living room, and outdoor spaces, our future housing landscape will be primed for connection.
This couldn’t come at a more important time. Seeking work, more and more people are migrating to urban centers, and our careers are more transient than ever. LinkedIn data shows that young people currently change their job four times by their early 30s, and these job switches often come with a change in location and/or dwelling. This hurts social ties, and it also means we are living increasingly far from our families.
With so much instability in our locations and increasingly ephemeral vocations, long-term leases and the decision to purchase a home may become archaic and unsupportive. For example, Common, a co-living concept from the founder of General Assembly, allows you to “transfer” your residence between any of their 20 locations in six cities, including New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Washington D.C. So if you need to be bi-coastal or you switch jobs every few years, you’ll have the flexibility to have a likewise flexible notion of home.
While sharing and downsizing for affordability seem like an inconvenience of rapid urbanization and changing employment opportunities, there are many social positives. Intentionally built co-housing communities that are designed to keep residents connected are already rising in popularity. Forgebank, a co-housing development in the UK, has created multiple collision points for community members so you are more likely to interact with each other every time you leave your house. Thousands of these experiments in reclaiming our human connectivity already exist, and that number will continue to rise, both by choice and as a byproduct of living in cities.
The future of home will therefore be flexible, communal, and be made relatively affordable through micro-leasing and shared amenities. Even though more physical walls will be built around us, we’ll also have more opportunities to bring the mental ones down.