A Rising Force

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The famous Chinese writer Zhongshu Qian once compared marriage to a “besieged fortress, where those outside want to get in, and those inside want to get out”. But this might not be true anymore. Singles are, generally speaking, unmarried adults, and therefore a rather diverse group. Singles include divorcees, “empty nest” elderlies, “leftovers”, and many others. But one group is gaining momentum young urban singles with good educational background and good income. This group is less constrained by social pressure. To them, being single has become a lifestyle and a choice. They hold different views towards marriage, family, and careers. Data regarding marriage and households show that the “Fourth tide of Singles” has arrived [1].

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Families used to be in the focus of real estate developers, but the rising demand of young urban singles challenges the supply, especially in core urban areas. When looking for living space, singles tend to choose locations in proximity to their workplace and with good access to public transportation. Good facilities in the surroundings, like convenience stores, restaurants and sport facilities, are another important factor. They focus more on cost efficiency, and prefer smaller and cozier units compared to traditional units targeting families.

Both government policies and housing market are responding to singles housing demand while promoting a better use of the existing housing stock. Shanghai is currently enlarging its share of smallto-medium-sized apartment units, especially in downtown areas[2]. Home-purchasing restrictions[3] further accelerate the expansion of the rental housing market.

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The market is responding with new housing concepts, for example long term rental apartments, dormitories and co-living spaces. They suit the needs of young urban singles and their modern way of life. Compared to traditional family apartments, long term rental apartments focus on privacy for individual rooms and offer shared public facilities. (See fig. 2). Buildings dedicated to such apartments often provide additional service facilities, like gymnasiums, billiard rooms, laundry, where social interactions can occur.

Similarly, and blurring the line between hospitality and residential sectors, co-living formats are emerging too. Communal spaces and onsite services, combined with online booking services, characterize the concept of this new type of community.

Dormitories, especially in universities surroundings, are becoming a more popular option. Providing the minimal sleeping space, they target especially low-income singles.

Technology innovations facilitate the exchange of information and services between demand and offer. The formation of various online rental platforms and popularization of rental mobile Apps help singles to find housing or roommates, and enjoy various after-rental services.

When compared to foreign developed countries, the number of singles is set to grow even more in future. According to US’s census data [6],
singles have accounted for almost half of the total population in 2016. The response to the rise of singles is happening and it’s just at its beginning. There is great room for further exploration of housing stock regeneration and business models development.

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