With the number of Londoners living in shared accommodation at an all-time high, Amelia Breadman looks at what impact social distancing is having on peoples’ living arrangements.
Amelia is an Architect at JTP and having worked on projects in and around London, including high-density neighbourhoods, she understands the challenges faced by those living in shared accommodation.
Sharing kitchens, bathrooms and narrow hallways isn’t exactly conducive to the basic rules of social distancing. So, how does one cope working, sleeping and living in a shared space?
I spoke to three flat sharers in the city about their experience to gauge what impact the pandemic is having on their everyday life.
A revival of cross-generational living could mean that families are brought together – giving each other better insight into their working lives. © Unsplash
First, I spoke to Emily, 25. She has returned to her family home to avoid residing in her Balham flat share through the lockdown. This common situation has seen countless parents living once again with older children who had left years ago, a revival of cross-generational living. One positive from this could be that families are brought together – giving each other better insight into their working lives. However, this is only available to those with the space for it to work. It appears there are two benefits to living with parents rather than housemates - the increase in space available at a home outside of the city and the shared values of a close family unit.
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of space as well as flexibility and adaptability. © Unsplash
One Clapham flat-sharer Jaz, 27, said she is using an ironing board to do her work, as she does not have space for a desk. Jaz and her housemates do not have a private garden and are unsure if they should be using the communal outdoor space. This highlights the importance of space as well as flexibility and adaptability. The pandemic has revealed many flaws with shared rentals and in the future, I have no doubt that renters will be more acutely aware of the size of room they seek, should they ever need to work from home again. However, increased space results in increased rent costs, so we could see proportions of wages spent on rent increase.
Shared values among those you live with – be that friends of family – can help keep people united through a lockdown. © Unsplash
Frankie, 25, was keen to leave London before the lockdown began, but as his mum has an existing health condition, decided it was safer to remain in his house share. He shares with five others, but they have all pulled together to make the situation work. They have the benefit of a slightly larger than average flat, so there’s room for their work and rest spaces to be separate. All the housemates agreed this was an important factor. Here, we see again how shared values among those you live with – be that friends of family – can help keep people united through a lockdown.
For those living in shared accommodation, the commencement of lockdown would have undoubtedly brought questions, concerns and anxieties over the logistics of multiple people residing in one small space. However, it appears that when housemates have respect each other and have a large enough property, it can work.
For renters who have not had positive experiences in lockdown we could see shifts in their priorities. This could result in a decline in shared houses in favour of smaller studio flats or opting for the roomier option outside the city. As a result of this, could the pandemic start to trigger reform in the rental market and could this in turn start to influence some of the key building blocks that make up our city? As architects these are questions we are starting to reflect on in our projects to ensure we arrive at responsive, appropriate and forward thinking solutions.