Going compact does not necessarily mean a drastic shift in the sizes of homes. It refers to realizing the trend of gradually shifting towards smaller homes over time until we can recognize a remarkable difference. We might not be at a stage where we can compare current market homes to homes as small as 600 sq. ft. which are popularly known as ‘compact homes’. However, we are moving towards homes smaller in size compared to the homes built in the past.

Along with a shift from low rise to high rise in cities, there was also a shift in the sizes available for both. After the economic reforms in the 1990s, homeownership became more accessible to people as real estate flourished. With increasing urbanization, there was a high demand for homes in the cities and gradually the sizes of homes started shrinking to be able to offer locations near the city with the increasing land prices. According to property consultants ANAROCK, “Bangalore saw the least decline in average property sizes at around 12% in five years. The current average apartment size in Bangalore is 1,260 sq. ft. interestingly, before 2017, the average sizes in Bangalore fluctuated by merely 1-2% y-o-y; in 2018, they dropped by over 12% against the preceding year.” (Negi, 2019)

 Tiny homes are not a completely new concept, however the process is so slow that it is very difficult to determine the points at which these shifts happen. However, it is important to realize that these do happen. We can say that with changing lifestyles or with every new generation and their new ideology there might be a shift that takes place. It determines if and how will homes change for that particular generation. The usage of spaces evolves with time and so does their importance. Some spaces disappear while some resize themselves leading to an overall reduction in home size over time. It is important to realize whether this shift towards smaller homes is only a product of real estate market pressures or a reflection of the ideology and lifestyle of home users as well.

There are these various important factors that affect priorities and decisions at different stages in life. Priorities change while living alone, or once you get married or start a family. Some things get reflected from the contextual background as well. As a result, the priorities of people who belong to a metropolitan city like Bangalore are not comparable with the ones who live in tier 2 cities like Ahmedabad.

If we think about the difference between renting and ownership, ownership provides a sense of security whereas renting provides flexibility. With companies like Airbnb and Uber shifting the trend from ownership to experience and accessibility, the new generation is adapting to this new ideology with open arms. For those who prefer this flexibility as a way of life, either rent a space for them, some prefer the concept of co-living. However, the number of people who would like to rent spaces is more as compared to the ones who co-live. The feeling of permanence is much higher while renting than co- living. That is the reason why some married couples who currently rent, do not mind continuing so. Renting is now seen as a medium through which they can make their homes without a long-term commitment while co-living is preferred with an ideology that it will soon terminate and so millennials might be willing to compromise on their choices way more while co-living as opposed to renting.

If we contemplate the idea of permanence for millennials, they might not be able to visualize their whole life in the same home. With the ever-increasing demand for homes, it is always easy to sell one house and move to another with an upgrade in lifestyle and hence most millennials do not imagine themselves living more than 5-8 years in the same home. However, the choice of moving towards a smaller one is a result of a lot more things other than space crunch or monetary scarcity; it is a way of life that one might get used to gradually to prefer that.

Since a lot of millennials live alone for their education or work (on rent or co-living) in their younger years, they tend to spend a lot of time in their bedrooms. Hence even if they move back into their family homes later or start a family, their preference for a larger bedroom prevails. Their preferences might get affected psychologically as a habit or comfort. As a result, we can see millennials preferring the bedroom to be the largest space of the house over the living room. With hosting fewer gatherings at home, finding means of entertainment outside, the millennial living rooms seem to witness a noticeable shrink. 

Each millennial household is unique with unique requirements, which means that the market needs to provide homes that are so generic that every homeowner with additional adjustment from his/her part can meet with personal needs. Presumably, this is one of the reasons why the real estate market has monotony today.

Is ‘tiny homes’ the way to go for Indian millennials? - Shet1
(i) Generic 2 BHK layout; Source- ©Nandni Shah
Is ‘tiny homes’ the way to go for Indian millennials? - Shet2
(ii) Generic 3 BHK layout; Source- ©Nandni Shah

Millennial homes are losing the importance of smaller pockets of spaces in the house like the storeroom, a definite wash area or a prayer room etc. They prefer to have large and open primary spaces where they can find corners and niches for these functional requirements. With disappearing smaller rooms and spaces, the house plan is much simpler and allows designers to plan spaces in such a way that even with gradual downsizing of homes; we can create spaces that accommodate their needs efficiently.

The emergent popularity of 3 BHK homes is a result of these unique needs. With nuclear families being the main buyers, they prefer to keep an additional space for their requirements in their homes. Some use it as a guest bedroom, some as a study, some as the pooja room, and some simple storage. Flexibility is what they need which these smaller pockets of spaces are restricted. Millennials might not mind letting go of the third bedroom is provided with 2 spacious bedrooms that avail them of their requirements and activities.

The size of the living room is becoming smaller as the overall home sizes are shrinking and bedrooms are demanded to be bigger. With the negligible difference in the size of the living and the bedroom now, all the spaces in the house might be the same if we may consider the kitchen and toilets as basic and fixed services. This is when homes might be able to offer more flexibility to cope with individual requirements instead of being too rigid where each space is reflective of its function. It is worth speculating that these spaces of the house might become function neutral overtime as a result of the evolving proportion of rooms within the house. In which case, an overall downsizing of homes might not affect the lifestyle of people as compared to the downsizing by eliminating certain spaces.

If home layouts are more or less identical or generic across everywhere, the neighborhood becomes an extremely crucial decision-maker. As a result, a considerable number of millennials bases their decision on the amenities and prioritizes commute to work and locality before size. 48% of millennials would choose to live in a smaller home to be able to provide themselves with the quality of lives they desire (Shah, 2020). Access to amenities and a better lifestyle takes over the desire for a big home. With this ideology and increasing population density in cities, home sizes are likely to witness a rapid and noticeable reduction in the coming years.

However, in the light of the pandemic that the world has been impacted with due to the spread of the CoVID-19 virus, all the importance that was laid on experience over ownership is likely to be reassessed. It will surely leave a huge impact on individuals leading them to reorganize their lifestyle, priorities, and career. It is uncertain when lives can come back to normal where people are spending their money again on live concerts and meals in restaurants or expensive travels. A lot of spending might go into upgrading kitchens or building a backyard and other things that tie millennials back to their homes.

It is then important to question what is better in such a scenario where the quality of life is increasing along with the prices of homes and goods, people are settling for smaller homes to cope with their lifestyle expenses, and home now is not seen as a permanent station for a lifetime anymore. Is having a generic and rigid plan the best way to go for millennials or perhaps Habraken’s theory of flexibility might help us out here where we can borrow from open plans and maximize the use yet design spaces that can offer desired privacy to the buyers. As designers of mass housing, this is an important question to address as this might completely change the face of urban housing. 

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Author

Nandni is a recent graduate of architecture who is always lost in her thoughts about the influence of spaces in our everyday lives and finds a platform to express her curiosities through her scribbles and words. One story at a time!

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