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What do we need for civilised living?

On the day that it is announced that  the number of middle-aged renters has doubled in a decade, it is worth considering what those renters actually need.

While thereis some great architecture being designed for rent (and  a lot of truly dreadful stuff), one of the bugbears is space – or the lack of it. This is where Patrik Schumacher, the boss at Zaha Hadid Architects, has waded in. Ever the controversialist, he suggested last month that millennials don’t need living rooms and would be perfectly happy in a central, affordable studio, since they will in any case be out networking 24/7.

As Paul Finch wrote in the AJ, ‘Schumacher seems to think that the world consists entirely of ‘young professionals’ …  for which read: ‘the sort of people my practice employs’’. The argument is also brilliantly refuted in an open letter by Charles Glanville on the site Spare Room. What he says should be obvious, but seemingly is not. People need communal spaces if they are to get to know each other. Homes should be homes, not just places to sleep. Social isolation and depression are not ameliorated by living in one room and eating curry off your knees.

Spare room seems to be squarely aimed at 20-somethings but as the age profile of renters rises this becomes an issue for everybody. We don’t all need to buy, but we all need somewhere decent to live. And this not only means structurally sound, well maintained and with some sort of security – it also means somewhere big enough.


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