Life in lockdown has exposed some of the shortcomings of traditional residential design.
Having to work and school from home when you live in an apartment or a house with no office space is hardly ideal, nor is being stuck in close quarters with your annoying housemates in a shoebox apartment during COVID lockdown.
‘Flexibility’ has been a buzzword used in architectural circles for a few years now, but the COVID-19 pandemic has really thrust the need for more flexible housing into the spotlight - and you could be about to see a lot more of it.
What is flexible housing?
Existing housing is designed around the number of bedrooms and bathrooms a ‘typical’ household (read: nuclear family) needs, without really considering how people live in the space - or that there can be blended, extended or multigenerational families all living under one roof.
This is what makes flexible housing different. Flexible housing is purpose-built to match the way we live in the 21st century by adapting to our diverse and changing needs. Flexible housing is designed to be adaptable to ageing, the climate, working from home, and variable household sizes.
Some examples of flexible houses include separate pavilions joined by the ‘core’ of the house (so the kitchen and dining, bedrooms and bathrooms, communal living spaces). The rooms in the pavilions then essentially become ‘spare rooms’ with a multitude of uses, like a guest bedroom, self-contained quarters, home office, music studio, or can be used as space for adult children, ageing parents or even as an opportunity for income generation like AirBnB. Two Pavilion House is an excellent example of this.
Why are more people considering flexible homes?
Architects have been arguing for years now that we need more flexible housing purpose-built for 21st-century lives. Technology has allowed some of us to work from anywhere at any time, yet many houses still don’t reflect this in their design - something the COVID-19 pandemic really shone a spotlight on.
As we’ve been spending more time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic living closely with housemates and families, the intense way we’ve been living over the last few months has highlighted the need for more flexible, separate living spaces.
Nowhere is that more evident than in property search behaviour. According to Domain data, searches for home offices and retreats increased by 830% and 159% respectively, while searches for balconies and studios increased by more than 50%.
Benefits of flexible homes
Separate living areas
Having separated living areas can be extremely handy if you’re from a big family and want a quiet space to escape to, or if you’ve got guests over and want a bit of privacy to entertain away from the rest of the family.
Room for multi-generational families
Similarly, if you live under one roof as a multi-generational family, things can easily become pretty cramped in a standard house. Flexible houses offer the ability to live alongside each other but with your own separate spaces, so there’s less intrusiveness and more privacy.
Extra space to work
Rather than converting your dining table into a makeshift office or trying to work in the communal area while your housemate has the TV blasting, flexible houses offer spaces you can dedicate to working from home - without your kids yelling in the background.
More living/hobby space
Another major benefit of flexible houses is that they can also allow you more space for your hobbies. So rather than trying to paint or do crafts on the kitchen table at the same time as your kids are doing their homework, you can have a separate space for it.
Love photography? You can have a photography studio. If you’re a bookworm, you can dedicate a room solely to reading and writing.
Extra income potential from short-term accommodation
Perhaps one of the biggest benefits that flexible housing offers is the opportunity for income generation if there are self-contained quarters (like a lower level/wing that’s completely self-contained and has entrances/exits separate from the main living).
However, it’s important to note that some lenders may not take this income into account for home loan servicing and that to be qualified as an owner-occupied loan, the home should be the principal place of residence.
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