Think of the average house-share: everybody is a bosom buddy, and in between fond group hugs, people look out for each other. Delicious and nutritionally sound meals are prepared, cooked and enjoyed together every night before occupants adjourn to the spacious shared lounge (after the washing up rota has been cheerily observed) to watch mutually agreed entertainment, after which they retire to their spacious rooms for hobbies or sleep, as their warm utterances of ‘good night’ echo throughout just like The Waltons.
Ha. Ha. Ha.
I’ve been thinking about the housing benefit rule change (my mind is a fantastical palace of wonder) and keep coming back to one problem in particular: rental properties are designed for families, not independent adults who either choose, or are obliged to share.
But first a recap: the UK’s economic downfall was caused in part by poor design. Buy-to-let chancers ‘invested’ in shoddy, flimsy dovecots/euroboxes, which always had a maximum of two bedrooms. Six month tenancies (usually bad, but here good) granted dissatisfied tenants freedom to move, leaving owners with empty flats, mortgage arrears and ultimately – bankruptcy. If only developers, investors and buyers had listened to what people want from a home.
New Housing Benefit rules mean that claimants under 35 are entitled to just the shared home rate. There aren’t enough suitable houses to go round, and in any case, families need them. Singletons who share have quite specific needs (claiming or not, as people share because rents are eye-watering) so here’s a suggestion: why not build houses aimed specifically at adults who share, but are not related or attached?
In modern houses especially, bedrooms are small, and lounges and diners are usually open-plan, despite the fact that shared home life differs to family life: meals are rarely communal, so please supply extra cupboard space for individual food storage.
Remember that many bedrooms intended for children in a family home are smaller than prison cells, so bedrooms must be larger: becoming combined dining rooms, lounges and even workrooms (some freelancers work from home, and need space for a desk and a gap between desk and bed.)
Occupants invite friends round to visit, eat and meet, so open-plan is not ideal when trying to watch a film and there is a gathering in the kitchen. Separate rooms work best here.
I say this as if anyone will care or take notice. But why not build family homes which make maximum use of space and suit family lifestyles, and then specialised homes optimising space for people who live in what are called homes in multiple occupation, that is larger houses shared by groups of people united by the simple fact of living in the same house who might not know, or even like each other, and so need defined personal space.
When will owners, developers commission buildings for rent taking tenants needs and wants into consideration, rather than applying the same old norms and practices? Generation rent need housing to suit them.