Blurring the lines between homes and hotels

Michael Goldin ponders the future of flexible housing.

Much has been written about millennials’ unwillingness (and inability) to buy homes. Many factors play into this, but what does that mean for the future of housing?

For millennials, the average job tenure is three years and for those between 20 and 24 its even lower, 1.3 years. Forbes estimates 34 per cent of Americans freelance today, almost half of the workforce will be freelancers by 2020.

With an increasingly transient and freelancing workforce, flexible housing options will become crucial to the future of housing and the sharing economy. Euromonitor expects that the sharing economy will account for 1/5th of all short-term accommodations. There are a few companies that are positioned to benefit from the convergence of these trends.

One such company is a home sharing apartment community called Niido powered by Airbnb. Niido communities give residents the ability to short-term rent their apartments for up to 180 days per year. Creating a community that supports nightly rentals, rather than prohibiting them, Niido is betting that “short-term rental friendly” is a desirable amenity.

‘ResidentHosts’ who rent their home through Airbnb when away (or even needing a few bucks to pay for rent) will get help from Niido to register for permits, file taxes, build a listing profile, etc. For guests, it’s essentially an extended stay hotel with every amenity imaginable including co-working spaces and community events like barbeques, art exhibitions and cooking classes. For millennials that frequently change jobs or covet the flexibility of the gig economy, the ability to draw on additional short-term rental income to cover housing costs when needed seems like a fit.

Marriott recently announced plans to grow its branded residential portfolio by another 60 properties. One of my favourite places to stay is at the W Residences, part of the Marriott branded residences that will be growing over the next four years. Buying a branded residence can (and should) allow the owners the flexibility to rent their unit through the hotel, or directly on the OTAs, subsidising the costs of ownership while away from home. Imagine being able to live in a luxury building, where traditionally only the wealthy can afford, all because the rules of your building or community allow travelers to pay your mortgage for you. That future is not far away.

Sure, there may be some downsides to living in a transient occupied property such as not knowing your neighbors and potentially more noise than otherwise at a traditional apartment/condo. However, if you look at the designs for many of these properties, Niido, The W, Waldorf Astoria, etc, all overcompensate by creating incredible community spaces, restaurants, bars, and in some cases even spas. For many, including and especially the millennial generation, this tradeoff is one that is likely to blur the lines between home and hotel.

Whether individuals prefer to buy or rent, it seems the future of housing will be flexible.

Michael Goldin is the director of business development at NoiseAware, a noise monitoring solution designed for short term rentals, serviced apartments and flexible housing.