For Ben, aged 25, a traditional living situation simply wouldn’t work. He’s worked in music technology for most of his working life, founding a DJ live-streaming platform with over 350,000 users. With erratic hours, plenty of travelling and a friendship group of people in the industry, lodging with a nine-to-fiver would probably cause a lot of housemate tension. That’s why he chooses to live in a warehouse.
His interest was piqued by his friend Hydie. After struggling to find somewhere to live, he stayed with her in a warehouse in South East London. Ben told us: “Hydie invited me round to her warehouse in Honor Oak Park at the time and I felt right.” After that, he took it upon himself to move into a place in Hackney Wick with Hydie in tow. The space is located on Fish Island, close to the Olympic Stadium, and has become known as a haven for this type of living. Ben explains that there’s “six to eight units in the complex, housing between six to twenty people in each. The average age is early twenties and there's a real concentration of artists and creative people, from musicians to photographers living in the units.”
Making compromises to save hundreds on rent
Ben’s room costs £600 a month, but smaller ones are around £500, and those with all the mod cons can go for around £1,000. It also depends on whether you privately let, or use a property guardianship scheme which may be cheaper (some can be as little as £120 a month depending on the condition1).
While the price of warehouse living still seems high, compared to the rest of London (where the highest concentration of warehouses are located), there is a large saving. The rent on a regular bedsit in Hackney can come in at over £1,160 and, in trendy Camden Town, up to £1,5802 - and that doesn’t include any council tax or bills. Our research has found that the average disposable income each month for millennials is just £1563, so any kind of saving can make a huge difference. Ben reveals that “there's so little space in London that you could end up paying over the odds for a house share somewhere you'd never have chosen to live. And there's no sign of affordable housing or rental property getting easier to find.”
Life and work in an eclectic environment
Many of the people who live in the warehouses also find they double up as workspaces. Hydie started a co-working club in their unit, where other residents who worked from home could join up one day a week. A number of the properties available online also have separate offices, studios, and areas to do just about anything you need.
It’s a lifestyle, though, that many people might find a bit too fast. For those who like a quiet home, warehouses may not be an ideal choice. Ben says: “With so many musicians around, the weekends and a lot of week nights can get noisy.”
He continues: “There's not a lot of private space as the rooms are small and windowless but that's made up by great communal space.” The benefit of living with large groups is that everyone brings something new to the place – whether it be art, furniture or plants – making for some eclectic and unique decor.
One of the main pulls for people in these units is the community spirit, and Ben’s house “arrange regular events, parties, dinners and acoustic sessions amongst the housemates.” He says:
You feel part of a community of similar people… Since I moved in I've felt loved
The way many people live has changed in recent years, with statistics showing that there has been an increase of 3.3 million people living shared households4, which is down to a mixture of economic reasons (such as house price rises) and social factors (such as companionship and sharing chores). It seems that the group environment of a warehouse provides this for young people, who essentially are able to create their own family unit with new housemates.
On top of his music ventures, Ben’s hobbies include rock climbing, kayaking, and paragliding, as well as being an advocate of a movement called ‘intentional living’. This is described as a lifestyle which encompasses a simple and sustainable life, fuelled by chasing your passions and doing good for the world around you. Ben and Hydie are also starting their own intentional living company Cove, aimed at helping others do the same, as they noticed the demand for people wanting to live in work in interesting places. The pair have been travelling and carry out research around the world, “from a hippie commune in California to a disused school-cum-club-cum-work-space in Amsterdam, to pod hotels in Japan.”
Finding a home like this has become much easier thanks to social media and the web. There are also groups for different areas, where you can chat to your neighbours and organise projects and meet-ups. They are harder to come by outside of major cities; and in certain areas like Fish Island and Manor House, warehouses are far more common. However, as with moving to any new home, do your research and make sure you have everything you need to suit your ideal living situation. And, for warehouse life, maybe buy a new pair of earplugs.
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Aviva Family Finance Report 2016