Ownership lite

Sharing homes and lives, not just power drills

Co-living has been on the block for a while, but it’s no longer a fringe phenomenon. You won’t see singles scouting for bachelor flats or studio apartments. Instead, digital nomads are co-living by choice, opting for shared residences that are part dorm and part hotel, giving their inhabitants private bedrooms with en suite bathrooms, but communal kitchens and living rooms.

It’s quite a stretch from renting out your power drill in the sharing economy, to sharing home life 24/7, but multiple developments have helped shared living to cross the threshold.

In the past, the ultimate achievement of adulthood was to own your own home, but rising property prices in places like Amsterdam, Melbourne and Hong Kong have made this near impossible for most. For tenants, sky-high rents and inadequate housing supply have led to many sleepless nights. People claim to be feeling lonelier than ever, yet the mobility that so-called global citizens can enjoy means they prefer ‘pack-up-and-go’ that’s easy and effortless.

Priya Pravesh, a 29-year-old software engineer who lives in a co-house in Mumbai, says her generation is really redefining consumption. “My parents started collecting white goods since their wedding; I don’t even have my own linen closet!” At the end of the month when her lease expires, she’s off to Frankfurt with just her clothes and her tech. Nothing goes into storage and everything she rented from IKEA to furnish her room is returned to sender.

After all, who needs ownership, when you have access to all the things you need, on demand, just by swiping and tapping a screen? Since Uber and Airbnb showed the way, more and more participants in the gig economy are making their domestic arrangements exactly that – a series of gigs, of indeterminate length.

Is there a price to not being tied down? Priya answers “no way,” but sociologists aren’t sure… yet. In the meantime, innovative businesses are cashing in on the new trend to eschew ownership for (temporary) possession of goods and homes.

Warning: Hazardous thinking at work

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