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Morgan Centre for Research into Everyday Lives

Houses in a city from the air

Under the same roof

Exploring the possibilities and limits of different kinds of shared housing

June 2013 to November 2015

‘Under the Same Roof’ explores the day to day experience of living with non-family members across a range of different shared living arrangements, to find out what works – and what doesn't – in different types of shared housing. 

About the project

In the context of an ongoing housing crisis in the UK, shared housing has become increasingly common. The high cost of housing makes it difficult for many of us to adopt our ideal living arrangements. For many people, living under the same roof with non-family members is simply the only option. This is specially so at key points in life, for example as a single young adult, or getting back on one’s feet after a relationship break-up. For others, sharing a house in this way represents a common sense response to housing need: sharing can be cheaper, less lonely, and more environmentally friendly.

Our project set out to explore the day to day experience of living with non-family members across a range of different shared living arrangements, to find out what works – and what doesn't work – in shared housing. In particular, we were interested in four key facets of shared living: the economic, ideological, temporal and spatial facets. We explored how different households organised themselves around these facets, and with what consequences for the nature and quality of their relationships. After all, ultimately whether or not a shared housing arrangement works depends on the people involved, and how 'at home' they feel.

We carried out in-depth research interviews with 65 sharers, ranging in age from their early twenties through to their eighties, and living in four different types of house share: shared households consisting of occupants with equal legal status mostly in the private rented sector; private lodging arrangements, where lodgers rent a room from a landlord or landlady who also lives in the house; shared housing co-operatives; and co-housing schemes which combine private living space with communal areas and facilities. Some sharers also took photos of their homes or filled in day-in-the life time diaries for us.

Research team

Professor Sue Heath (Principal Investigator), Dr Katherine Davies (University of Sheffield, Co-Investigator), Dr Gemma Edwards (Co-Investigator) and Dr Rachael Scicluna (Research Associate). 

Funding

The project was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Ref: ES/K006177/1 between 1 May 2013 and 30 November 2015. We also received connected funding from the ESRC Impact Accelerator Award, for a policy workshop in June 2014, and in 2015/16 for the creation of resources for young people.

Working with the housing sector

As the research has unfolded we have developed many useful links with housing practitioners with a strong interest in shared housing, including local authority housing teams, housing associations, third sector organisations, and commercial organisations. Most of these organisations work with very specific groups of sharers (eg social housing tenants, people at risk of homelessness). Although some of these groups differ in many respects from the majority of the sharers we interviewed in our research, discussions with experts in these fields suggest that most sharers face broadly similar challenges in terms of learning to live with non-kin, regardless of circumstances or reasons for sharing.

A particularly valuable link was forged early in the project with Crisis and their ‘Sharing Solutions’ programme. This programme received funding from the Department of Communities and Local Government to support eight pilot schemes in diverse housing markets to deliver decent and sustainable shared accommodation in the private rented sector. With ESRC Impact Accelerator Account funding we are now working with Crisis to produce a series of resources targeted at young people focusing on some of the potential flashpoints in shared living. These will be made available on this website later in 2016.

In June 2014, we ran a workshop in collaboration with housing experts from Salford City Council, also funded through the ESRC Impact Accelerator Account. ‘Shared housing, shared experiences: A cross-sectoral dialogue’ brought together 25 housing professionals with an interest in shared housing to explore current policy and practice in relation to shared tenancies in the social housing sector as well as schemes such as ‘Homeshare’.

The project was greatly enhanced by regular engagement with the fantastic members of our User Advisory Group, including representatives from Crisis, Salford City Council, Bolton at Home, St Vincent’s Housing Association, Accent Housing Association, Spareroom.co.uk, New Economy, MHA, and the UK Cohousing Network.