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Making Space: The Challenge of City Accommodation

By the year 2050, it’s projected that over 6 billion people will live in urban areas. This is two-thirds of the projected global population, reflecting the continuing rural-to-urban migration taking place across the developing world. In light of the current squeeze on urban accommodation, new solutions are required to house the larger population.

Smaller and smaller

Architects have worked on reducing the size of living quarters as one possible avenue to solving an imminent housing crisis. Their models are essentially scaled-down versions of the real thing, kitted out with the latest smart technology to make up for the reduced space. Considering that living habits have changed, particularly in urban areas, this may prove particularly useful in the coming years.

The argument goes that current accommodation in cities is often not built for purpose, and does not match the needs of those using it. Unfortunately, attempts to revolutionise housing often come up against a familiar foe – that of housing regulations. That is not to say these regulations are unnecessary; they are fundamental to a functioning housing market. But they do present a challenging obstacle for housing developers. Sarah Watson, of Making Room, talks about the problems in a city like New York:

“[Units on the market] actually better respond to the housing landscape of the 1950s… Most people sharing apartments together are in some way breaking the rules. Any apartment that is subdivided among more than three people who aren’t related in violation of occupancy rules, for example, and many apartments have locks on bedroom doors, which in many cases blocks the fire exit.”

Compensating for lack of space

The smaller living quarters for so many people would necessitate the growth of green spaces and parks within cities. Without adequately compensating for the lack of living space, it’s likely there would be a decline in general mental health. Michael Gamble, associate professor at Georgia Tech School of Architecture explains:

“There has to be a very healthy balance between what we call the public realm and the private realm. People need space to go to when they leave their apartment. They cannot be relegated to hanging out in a shopping mall or having to pay for a cup of coffee to use the Internet. There’s a tipping point related to general health and small apartments.”

Co-living space

The idea is relatively simple – instead of paying exorbitant rent on a one-bedroom apartment, you share a common area with other tenants. Your room in this set-up is small, but trading off against a larger shared space, which itself is designed to promote the interaction and socialising between tenants. The key to making a co-living space that works is to make sure it isn’t like entering a modern office – you should be able to be alone when you need to be. It’s a money saver for young people trying to make it on their own, since shared spaces would come with shared items. There’s lesser need to “own” the things you use if they are readily available. This kind of accommodation solution is one of the easier to implement, with flatshares already common across most major cities.

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Making Space: The Challenge of City Accommodation
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