Sociable Housing

  • Sociable Housing is a type of housing that creates the opportunity for social interaction between residents to enhance their sense of belonging, community, and well-being.  Sociable housing offers a choice to families and individuals to be part of a collective living arrangement, in which residents may engage in communal activities such as dining, studying, relaxing, and playing together, but with their own space when they need privacy and individuality.  Sociable Housing incorporates a mix of private dwellings and shared spaces for interactions between people.  These shared spaces may be gardens, generous entrances, communal kitchen facilities, laundries or reception rooms, but crucially they are in addition to the private facilities, thereby giving the residents the best of both worlds.

  • Sharing space has helped to generate interactions, which create connections, that grow into communities.  The benefits of sharing are clear, and have been demonstrated through extreme conditions like the lock-downs of COVID-19. 

    We are naturally social beings.  Our communication skills set us apart, and social interaction is hard-wired into all of us.  In terms of well-being, the desire for communal interaction is balanced with the need for everyone to have the ability to choose their degree of separation of privacy.

     

    Communal living is not new.  It’s as old as our species.  Tribal man lived communally, medieval villages rotated land communally, subjects lived communally in the feudal castles.  The seventeenth century coffee house was communal.

    Despite this, the move away from communal living to increasingly private retreats has been widely documented.  As such, there is a distinct lack of choice for all sectors of housing for accommodating changing family structures.  Planning policy focuses on dwelling sizes, but doesn’t consider the options that enable groups of people to live together.  Despite being a multicultural and vibrant city, the choice of housing available in London is limited to flats and houses (mostly terraced).

  • In Kaolin Court and Penrose Mews a mix of houses, flats and work space have access to shared outdoor spaces... In Kaolin Court and Penrose Mews a mix of houses, flats and work space have access to shared outdoor spaces... In Kaolin Court and Penrose Mews a mix of houses, flats and work space have access to shared outdoor spaces... In Kaolin Court and Penrose Mews a mix of houses, flats and work space have access to shared outdoor spaces...

    In Kaolin Court and Penrose Mews a mix of houses, flats and work space have access to shared outdoor spaces as well as private areas.  At Royal Hill, a residential centre for adults with learning difficulties utilises a covered veranda, which flows into a shared garden that provides a space for wider local community involvement.  At Stables Yard the gardens of six semi-detached houses flow together, accessed from private decks at the back of each home.  At Hampton Quay the flats are arranged around semi-open courtyards, each containing a covered kitchen and dining area (in addition to the private facilities within each flat), which overlook the public realm and the river.  At Alscot Road we are working with the residents to create a shared private street, connecting the existing housing with the new, helping to encourage interaction and community building from the outset.

     

    “We feel as though we are part of something, part of a little community, without compromising on anything.  We have private space, a beautiful home, a sustainable building and we get to enjoy with others - through sharing, we have more.”

  • Unlike co-housing, Sociable Housing offers people a choice to participate in their community. If a resident doesn’t want to participate,...

    Unlike co-housing, Sociable Housing offers people a choice to participate in their community.  If a resident doesn’t want to participate, they still have all the space and facilities for their exclusive use.  This type of approach provides an alternative to conventional housing, and it is rising in popularity.  It is not restricted to one tenure or another and it isn’t limited to a price bracket.

     

    Having shared space and other facilities has played an important part of villages, towns and cities since settlement began.  Modern facilities that contribute to making high-performance buildings, such as electric vehicle charging points, district heating, solar power, rainwater harvesting, and stormwater attenuation, become more cost effective and deliverable in a shared set up.  Community management structures make these affordable to manage, encourage interaction, which create connections, that strengthen communities.  The benefits of sharing are clear and have been demonstrated through extreme conditions like the lock-downs of COVID-19.

  • At Forest Mews, the first project we developed of this kind, three houses are arranged around a shared courtyard garden.... At Forest Mews, the first project we developed of this kind, three houses are arranged around a shared courtyard garden.... At Forest Mews, the first project we developed of this kind, three houses are arranged around a shared courtyard garden....

    At Forest Mews, the first project we developed of this kind, three houses are arranged around a shared courtyard garden.  The courtyard is the play space, the outdoor dining room, the home classroom, the workshop and the space for wildlife, rainwater harvesting and stormwater attenuation. “It’s like our own yard, our own little village green – car-free, a mixture of soft and hard landscaping.”

     

    Although it may appear like less delineated space, the total space in the communal garden is 3 times the size of the average private garden in the area.  Instead of putting fences up to create a small territory for each home, sharing the space not just provides more space, residents get more use out of the space.  Neighbours interact, but more so, the children play together both indoors and outdoors, away from the lure of the tablet and reducing screen time.

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