According to house share website flatmates, there has been a 20 per cent rise in midlife (age 40 plus) house sharing in the last year alone.
According to trecent reports, the number of people looking for rooms exceeded those available by 30 per cent. The reasons are believed to include unaffordable housing costs, the cost of living, redundancy, under-employment, divorce, depression and debt.
Our cities are changing. They’re becoming more expensive. Households are changing with more and more blended families and many adults are becoming under-employed or unemployed.
So, how do we plan cities for these new modern lifestyles?
Here are my seven tips:
Let’s acknowledge that modern lifestyles are different to the ‘norm’
More and more men and women in their 40s and 50s are moving into shared houses; a bedroom of their own and a communal kitchen, bathroom and living space. Most people are in this situation through necessity, not by choice. An acquaintance of mine’s husband wanted a divorce. They sold the large suburban family home, paid off the mortgage and cleared their substantial debts. She didn’t have enough money or a large enough income to rent a house or apartment herself. For some, the suburban home is no longer the norm.
Let’s listen rather being led by assumptions
It’s easy to believe that everyone lives a similar lifestyle to our own. They don’t. Let’s not be influenced by misguided assumptions. Let’s listen to others and think from a different perspective. For example, we may have planned suburbs for professional income families but we may need to deliver services for lower income middle aged singles in shared accommodation.
Let’s ask what it is that we really want
We need to ask ourselves what is it that we really want our cities to do and be. Do we want them to be affordable and liveable? Let’s challenge the logic and create cities that reflect modern lifestyles. Let’s understand changing demographics because our customer today may not be the customer of tomorrow.
Let’s understand people’s biggest worries
People tend not to think about the things that we might think that they think about. We might think people are thinking about technology and sustainability when in reality most people lay in bed at night worrying about how they’ll feed their kids and pay the next electricity bill. We need to provide customised information specific to people’s real needs.
Let’s pay attention to other people’s complaints
It’s simple to whinge about the whingers, but let’s pay attention to what people are complaining about. Complaints are an indicator of beliefs and what’s holding things back. When people complain about traffic congestion, it’s because they are frustrated about the precious time they’re wasting twice every day.
Let’s learn from reality, not from what the media imply
No one makes us learn after school or university. These days most of us are learning from TV, newspapers, Facebook and Sunday BBQs. Media influencers result in most of us thinking that a disproportionate number of people are earning half a million dollars. Let’s take control of what we are learning. Let’s understand about modern lifestyles and people who have limited budgets. Let’s plan our cities based on what’s really happening, not what reality TV implies.
Let’s prepare and get ahead of the curve
I’d not realised the phenomenon of middle-aged house sharing was quite so prevalent. Our world is changing fast and it’s easy to overlook the things that people are not thinking about. Middle age house sharing is one of those blind spots. It’s an issue that’s rarely considered. We need to prepare for new societal changes and be ahead of the curve.
We need our future cities to reflect modern lifestyles. So let’s acknowledge modern lifestyles, let’s listen, let’s ask what we want, let’s understand other people’s worries, let’s pay attention to complaints, let’s learn from reality and let’s prepare. That way our cities will support all, not just those .