Living Alone, Together: a Growing Trend
With new initiatives, solo living is becoming a social experience.
Posted Apr 28, 2019
WeWork recently launched WeLive, a communal living development in Washington D.C. and New York City. Like its older sister, WeWork, almost everything is flexible and network-oriented. Tenants can rent apartments (of varying sizes) for a few days or for a few months, and enjoy perks such as planned events, a gym, a game center, and fresh coffee. The concept is fascinating: people are living alone, together.
WeLive is not the sole actor in this emerging trend, following in Common's footsteps and those of several more actors, WeLive is quick to join the ride and is doing it at scale. What started in the 1960s as a small experiment in Denmark is turning to be a full-blown phenomenon.
Will this new kind of communal living become the wave of the future?
Recent statistics show that more and more people are opting for singlehood and solo living. In the United States, there are more than 110 million single people. Currently, more than 50% of the American adult population is single compared to a mere 22% in 1950. Moreover, approximately 1 out of every 7 adults live by themselves. The more economically developed societies in East Asia such as Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan have the highest proportion of one-person households in Asia, at 32.4%, 23.9%, and 22% respectively. These percentages represent a dramatic growth from the corresponding rates in 1980 − 19.8%, 4.8%, and 11.8% respectively.
Yet, the 21st-century brought a new phenomenon: waves of people are living alone, together. The studies documented in Going Solo and Happy Singlehood both found that people who live alone have stronger social, civic, and communal ties. These ties provide singles with stronger mental resilience.
Now, these ties become more formal and transform into innovative housing solutions. Many companies understood the need to develop social networks and rich social lives at the expense of family lives. In a sense, it seems we simply go back to tribal and communal ways of living. The reported prices of WeLive’s new developments prove that. The New York City WeLive studio apartment starts at $3,325 per month, while the average rent for a studio apartment in New York City is $2,550. People are willing to pay that premium in order to live alone, together.
Living Alone Together is Becoming a Social Experience
Thus, living alone may not be a social problem per se. Initiatives such as WeLive and Common are creating more spaces for singles to maintain both their solitude and their communities, essentially disrupting the field and redefining what it means to be single and independent. The idea of a traditional family is being replaced by what journalist Ethan Watters calls Urban Tribes. Social networks and communities are created by urban dwellers.
In this way, the solo dwelling is becoming to be a social experience. People are able to live alone but remain connected. In effect, being single and living alone is becoming a shared experience. In the past, living alone may have been concerning, but research suggests that it is becoming more embraced and widespread.
It is, therefore, time to eradicate the wild misconceptions attached to singlehood and solo dwelling and accept the happiness and sense of accomplishment it can provide.
This post was written with Lindsay Workman, UC Berkeley.