Will new models of home finance shape the family of the future?

23 : 11 : 2017 Family : Placemaking : Finance

Stagnant salaries, economic and political instability, threats from automation, choice anxiety, eco-anxiety – the list of panic-inducing 21st-century woes feels almost infinite.

Rebecca Coleman, senior writer, The Future Laboratory
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Despite the fact that they are no longer all that youthful, Millennials continue to struggle to fly the nest and settle down. According to Pew Research, 15% of US 25–35-year-olds now live at home, compared to just 10% in 2000. Meanwhile, the number of people getting married fell across all but three OECD countries between 1995 and 2014. Furthermore, for the first time ever, American women in their 30s are having more babies than 20somethings, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

These figures reflect a conscious pushback against outdated societal pressures to affirm life via predetermined stages, as well as an inability to do so. Stagnant salaries, economic and political instability, threats from automation, choice anxiety, eco-anxiety – the list of panic-inducing 21st-century woes feels almost infinite. This is the backdrop against which a new tribe is looking to businesses to help them achieve life’s key milestones, such as home ownership.

Enter Loftium, a start-up that aims to transform home ownership for those struggling to save for a deposit. The company offers prospective home-buyers up to £37,583 ($50,000, €42,180) towards a deposit in return for shared Airbnb income from renting out a spare room for 12–36 months. To maximise the return on investment, Loftium provides tools to enable its customers to become perfect hosts and turn their new homes into one of Airbnb’s ‘live like a local’ havens.

The young buyers Loftium is targeting will be renting out their spare room, potentially at the same time as cohabiting for the first time and trying to start a family.

Loftium co-founder Yifan Zhang believes this model of harnessing the sharing economy to power ownership will become as standard for property deposits as parental gifts or saving. ‘The parental gift wasn’t always a thing,’ she told a Techstars Startup Week event in Seattle in October. ‘It had to become a thing that’s accepted by most banks. We want Loftium to also become that type of standard where anyone in any expensive city, where the down payment is a hurdle, has access to Loftium funds if they’re willing to rent out an extra bedroom.’

While the model offers an accessible opportunity to get on the property ladder, it also raises questions about the future of the family unit. The young buyers Loftium is targeting will be renting out their spare room, potentially at the same time as cohabiting for the first time and trying to start a family. Could this lead to Millennials putting off having children for even longer as they wait to pay off their loan?

For renters, there is Nesterly, which aims to tackle the housing crisis by connecting students with elderly home-owners. In return for reduced rents, users of the platform agree to offer companionship and carry out chores for their hosts.

Nesterly makes sense, especially in the midst of rising rents and ageing populations, but like Loftium, it also has the potential to shake up life stages and family dynamics by extending the parent – or grandparent – and child cohabitation model. It could also see new relationships blossom where people form strong connections with their Nesterly hosts and invite them into the family unit. Whether positive or negative, the future of the family unit could be considerably altered by these new sharing economy-enabled housing models.

For more on the evolution of tomorrow’s family unit, read our Neo-kinship macrotrend.