Shared housing

Exploring the possibilities and limits of different kinds of shared housing.

About the project

This project is investigating shared living in contemporary Britain. Increased housing costs and welfare reforms mean that more people will experience communal living throughout their lives.

Some people choose communal living based on a belief that it is more socially, environmentally and financially sustainable, and that it could provide a solution to some of the key challenges facing our society. Other people share housing, not through choice but because it is the best, or only option available to them, for example, if they cannot afford the higher costs of living alone.

We are comparing and contrasting four particular forms of shared housing:

  • shared households in the private rented or social housing sectors or based on joint ownership;
  • private lodging arrangements;
  • small housing cooperatives; and
  • cohousing projects, which combine private homes with shared facilities.

We are exploring which factors lead to “successful” communal living throughout the lifecourse.

We argue that the ability of shared housing to provide a solution to future challenges facing our society rests on the nature of the relationships it produces. Another key aim is to illuminate the practical possibilities and limits of different types of communal living and the policy implications of these.


We are using a facet methodology approach in this project. For each of our four types of communal living, we are focusing on four facets:

  • economic;
  • spatial;
  • temporal; and
  • ideological.

We explore the interactions between these facets to illuminate the sociological possibilities and limits of shared housing.

Having reviewed existing knowledge in the field of communal living, we are now involved in the main fieldwork phase of the research. This involves qualitative interviews with people living in each of the four types of shared housing, exploring their housing histories and current living arrangements. We are using a qualitatively-driven mixed-method approach, combining spatial mapping, object inventories, time-use diaries and network mapping.


This project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).