The foundation of every local community are people and the homes in which they live. However, there are changes as to the way we feel towards and interact with our ‘homes’. According to Google, a ‘home’ is defined as: n- ‘The place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.’ Communities are being redefined as housing is being dramatically changed by consumer preferences and technology and moving away from this traditional definition.
Why the change?
For many, the cost of housing is the largest single expense. In fact, the average American spends 37% of income on housing.(1) This large percentage of income is coming into focus as individuals desire to make changes to the way we live and the way we interact with our homes.
Governments have initiated programs to encourage lending or to help subsidize rents. These are having positive results at the city, state, and federal level and continue to address some of the most challenging housing situations.
And there are now several market driven solutions that are emerging to address this movement in redefining the home. This is the convergence of real estate (property) and technology, or ‘PropTech’, and solutions are being developed by entrepreneurs and private industry. These changes towards our homes can be classified under the categories of ‘consumer preferences’ and ‘technology’ in the housing industry.
Americans are redefining what it means to have a home and how to use these spaces. The major trends include a move away from suburbs and into cities. There is also a move away from ownership and towards flexibility and renting for both short and long time periods.
People are realizing that owning and maintaining a larger space than needed may not yield the benefits once thought. This is evidenced by the trend of downsizing, or more favorably called ‘rightsizing’. Having a spare bedroom ‘just in case’ is not as high of a priority on people’s lists.
We are making trade-offs between private space and public space and opting for a greater percentage to be public or community space. This includes shared spaces with common areas such as kitchens and living rooms or swimming pools and gyms being addressed by the larger community and local businesses.
We are repurposing existing spaces to increase density. Recall those spare bedrooms and basements that are now being rented out through the shared economy. Or backyards that are now welcoming accessory dwelling units with friends, family, and renters alike.
Plenty of alternative living arrangements are popping up across the country to address the question of how to best manage or utilize the space that we already have.
Entrepreneurs are introducing new technologies and solutions to the housing market.
The construction site is moving indoors and is being mostly completed inside a factory setting. This improves working conditions, speed, quality control, and costs. A manufacturing approach to housing is replacing the on-site construction site.
Fabrication methods such as 3D printing and other new materials are replacing traditional sticks and nails and mud we have used for so many years. Machines are replacing the skilled craftsmen with hopes of efficiencies in the future.
Transforming furniture and transforming spaces are also challenging the status quo as single use spaces can now be used for multiple uses. This turns a bedroom into a living room. Or a den into a guest room.
And of course, there are all things smart with artificial intelligence and data changing our home and the way we use energy, water, and other utilities as well as our personal security. Homes are becoming not only tech-enabled, but tech-centric with voice commands, machine learning, and sensing how to provide a comfortable environment while balancing energy efficiencies.
The digital and the physical merge in our homes. Flexibility is replacing permanence and households are being redefined with myriad combinations of public and private spaces for living arrangements. As these changes are impacting communities everywhere, the home is being redefined. We may ultimately discover that being home is more of a state of mind, rather than ‘the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household’.