The lack of affordable housing has driven us apart, but new ways of addressing the crisis may end up bringing us back together. California’s Senate Bill 9 is one of those measures, which aims to increase housing by creating more living spaces within existing properties. But people are also taking the law into their own hands, so to speak, to create denser households, squeeze more shelter out of the existing market, and enjoy the benefits of more social living.
Accelerated by the pandemic, multi-generational living (homes shared by three or more generations) has quadrupled over the past decade. Though it’s not a new idea, the fact that even affluent people in the U.S. are now interested in sharing their homes with extended family marks a major shift away from the norm. And there are many benefits; studies show that intergenerational living is beneficial for senior citizens who otherwise languish in nursing homes.
Co-living got off to an awkward start, as start-ups attempted to sell people on the idea of for-profit communal living. Those early efforts were often mocked as “adult dorms,” but the idea was planted, and now many co-living businesses are thriving. More importantly, planning commissions across the country have embraced the concept of co-living as a means of increasing housing density, and are changing regulations to legalize all kinds of previously frowned-upon house-sharing arrangements. It’s a real world solution that happens to look a lot like The Real World.
The newest shared living situation to go mainstream may come directly out of SB-9. California homeowners who choose to add rental units to their properties will become landlords, though of a different sort. They’ll be sharing space with their tenants, who will also be their neighbors. In the years to come, that mixed relationship could become very common in California, where landlord-tenant relations have been adversarial for a very long time. Living together could make us all closer in more ways than one.