'Generation rent' - the term often given to those born in the 80s and 90s - refers not only to housing status but to a broader demographic change.The millennial cohort, generally speaking, seeks out services in preference to ownership – Netflix over DVDs, Uber over car ownership, even Girl Meets Dress and Borrow My Doggy over the complexities of wardrobe and pet maintenance.
So it is no surprise that property preferences are similarly affected and that consequently a new form of property is appealing so strongly to 'generation rent'.
The Resolution Foundation predicts that as few as 47% of millennials will own a home at 45. The lack of affordability, particularly in London is certainly a contributing factor but so too is the fact that the employment market is increasingly fluid and consequently 'generation rent' is more mobile, and with 20 being the new 30 the desire to settle down is often postponed. Security is another factor: 81% of potential first-time buyers surveyed by Halifax stated that due to interest rate rises, falling house price and job insecurity, homeownership was not for them.
Co-living is both a pragmatic response to changing circumstances but also a lifestyle choice. It provides apartments large enough for a millennial and their modest provisions, alongside extensive communal facilities which require no maintenance on the part of the tenant, and frequently in a location that would be otherwise unaffordable.
Company Noiascape exists to meet the needs of those who prefer to rent and in doing so provides both flexibility and freedom. The name says it all: NOIA means ‘new thinking, new approach and new direction’, while ‘SCAPE’ means space, landscape, communities and places.
James Teatum, one of the two brothers who created Noiascape, describes how the unique property-tenure-cum-service was arrived at: ‘As architects, Tom and I had bought properties over 10 years and kept hold of them, keeping in close contact with the tenants and gaining a better understanding of their needs and preferences. It was our tenants who suggested we set up more co-living spaces. When we looked at the stat, the evidence was clear: 3.5 million people are predicted to be renting in London in 7 years’ time according to the GLA. We also carried out our own research - analytical and anecdotal - and discovered that tenants typically spend only 17% of their time in their own spaces, preferring instead to socialise outside their own properties.
‘This led us to develop a model of co-living which prioritised communal areas: not just spaces, but active spaces where the social side of co-living could flourish.
‘So our properties offer everything that is needed in a home (comfort, space, security) and in a landlord (trust, communication, flexibility) alongside a social infrastructure.
‘Our belief is that your home stretches beyond your front door, and so the Noiascape community is not limited to individual co-living schemes, but to the wider network: those living in one Noiascape scheme are more than welcome in the communal space of another.’
The N unit scheme at Askew Road, west London best illustrates Noiascape’s unique approach to active co-living. On completion, Noiascape used the shared space to host a rotating series of pop-up events including a reggae record shop, demonstrations by boxing and luxury stationary companies and a sculpture workshop.
Uniting these diverse events is the fact that they were locally-sourced, free to host and free to attend: the intention being that they created links between the new and existing communities.
And the success was tangible: lasting relationships flourished, the activities were widely popular and the sculptor gained 45 commissions - more than he had gained locally in 18 years of living on Askew Road.
Future plans for High Street House, a 15 unit scheme in Shepherd’s Bush, include an exhibition by students of the London Fashion School and cookery demonstrations and supper clubs with local chefs.
So how does it add up? ‘We bring our understanding of space from our architecture background and our commercial understanding from many years as landlords’, James explains. ‘By offering a range of unit sizes, we attract a range of rents, but none are extortionate. We value and have achieved tenant loyalty, and this accounts for a lot financially.’
While Noiascape is indisputably forward thinking both in its philosophy and its actions, its lack of dependence on the virtual world is very apparent: it markets properties through estate agents, delivers leaflets by hand, and speaks to people face to face. A refreshingly ‘IRL’ approach is surely the real social networking.
This article was first published in Planning and Development Insite, Spring 2019 click here to download the issue.