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Here’s how we’ll be living in London in 30 years

The capital may be short on housing, but innovative Londoners are coming up with some nifty solutions that could see us living in micro homes, 3D-printed abodes or above railway stations

By Nick Levine. Brought to you by Microsoft
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In December, Mayor Sadiq Khan argued that 'the housing crisis is now having such an effect on a generation of Londoners that the arguments in favour of rent stabilisation and control are becoming overwhelming'. But introducing New York-style rent control is just one way the capital can ensure it's an affordable place to live for people who don’t have fat six-figure salaries. Here are five super-innovative potential solutions to London's affordable housing shortage.

More of us could join a co-living community

Co-working spaces are all the rage in London, but co-living remains a relatively new concept – new, but not unprecedented. The Collective, a co-living development in North Acton, is now home to around 500 people who have private bedrooms, but share communal space including kitchens, dining rooms, a cinema room, a games room, a gym and spa, and a large industrial-style co-working area. Because the bedrooms are pretty compact, it's pitched primarily at single young professionals, but Denmark is already experimenting with family-oriented co-living developments. One example is Take Lange Eng, a Copenhagen co-housing community which is home to more than 200 adults and children. Co-living won’t be for everyone, but the benefits are obvious: it doesn’t just offer more affordable living and an efficient use of prime London real estate, but gives dwellers the opportunity to foster a greater sense of local community and combat urban loneliness.

We could try living in micro homes

When space is in short supply – hiya, London! – design needs to get clever. Micro homes might seem like a bit of a gimmick right now: last year, Dunkin' Donuts created one in upstate New York which runs on fuel from used coffee grounds, then listed it on Airbnb as a publicity stunt. But more serious, large-scale developments seem to be on their way. London-based company U+i wants to build a series of ‘compact-living developments’ in central London and says they ‘could reinvigorate many communities in Zone 1 by enabling a mix of young workers to live centrally’. But still, the idea of moving into a micro home necessitates some tough personal decisions: exactly how much space do you need, and to what extent are you prepared to go Marie Kondo on your belongings?

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We could become a city of station dwellers

We know Londoners have a special affection for the city's transport network – these days, you can even buy a TfL Christmas jumper. But should more of us be living directly above the capital's major rail stations? The Centre for London think tank commissioned a report into this concept in 2017, and reached conclusions that sound cautiously optimistic. 'Over station development ticks so many of the boxes in terms of good urban planning as well as having the potential to make a quantum change in the provision of homes and work space,' TfL's Francis Salway said at the time. 'But it is challenging to deliver.' Still, as technology and design become more sophisticated, these challenges will surely become easier to overcome, making the possibility of living at an address like ‘1, Waterloo’ less of a pipe dream. Where can we sign up?!

3D printed housing could revolutionise the construction process

It sounds like something from an '80s sci-fi film, but 3D printed housing is already happening. Last year, the Dutch city of Eindhoven gave the green light to Project Milestone, the world's first development of habitable homes made by a 3D printer (which is actually a kind of massive robotic nozzle which squirts out cement with a whipped cream-like consistency). If Project Milestone can be scaled up in London, the benefits could be tremendous. Van Wijnen, the company behind the Dutch development, says 3D printing doesn’t just circumvent the current shortage of skilled bricklayers, but also cuts costs and environmental damage by reducing the amount of cement used in housing construction.

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We could move into a ‘WikiHouse’... yes, really.

Don't worry, Wikipedia isn't about to branch out into the construction business. WikiHouse is the name of an innovative new construction system, originated at London film 00, which aims 'to reinvent the way we make homes'. The idea is straightforward: by creating standardised but easily adaptable building plans for sustainable housing, the long and complicated process of designing and re-designing new developments can be eliminated. The concept is still at the pilot stage, but South Yorkshire Housing Association has said it wants to use the WikiHouse template to build two new homes on a plot in Sheffield. Watch this space.

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What will London's skyline look like in 20 years' time? How will we respond to climate change, a rapidly increasing population and air pollution? Will we all be eating insects in the near future? In this series, we’re delving deeper into the future we know is coming, and investigating the developments that could shift the way we exist in the coming decades.

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