Opinion: Work-Live Housing is the Future

TL;DR—why wait for new work-live housing? Singapore apartment rentals are so expensive nowadays, might as well build more alternative housing types now.

This may sound like a radical concept, but people have lived where they worked for most of history. The farmer lives on the farm. Carpenters live with their workshops. The modern home, as we know it, is a relatively new convention. In the last century, this live-work model disappeared from view as urban planners sought to address challenges such as congestion and pollution. For most of modernity, we’ve lived away from our work. But with the onset of the pandemic and the overheated Singapore apartment rental and property market, could things be changing? Is our future in work-live housing?

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Work-Live Housing in Singapore—Will it Work?

The housing stock in Singapore centres on the idea of self-sufficiency. More and more new housing is being built further away from the city as spaces closer to Singapore’s business hub are built up. So the Housing Development Board began to distribute amenities, as well as commercial and industrial developments, were distributed among new housing estates. By the 2000s, there will be more focus on shortening commute times. The 2040 Long Term Master Plan envisions 9 out of 10 peak-hour journeys will take no more than 45 minutes. But in the age of flexible work, is work-live housing the solution?

The Dis-united State of Flexible Working

Surveys showed that more and more workers want flexible work arrangements. According to the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), 80 per cent of the 1,000 employees surveyed said that flexible working hours were important to them. 41 per cent of them wouldn’t take up a job if they couldn’t work the hours they wanted.

Employers have yet to keep up. In the same survey, only 52 per cent reported that their employers provided remote working options. Though some have heeded calls to implement flexible work arrangements and perks for hybrid work (paywall). The tide has yet to turn. So far, no large corporations he tooted their horns about flexible work. The IPS reported that more are returning have been going back to the workplace on most days. Some of them actually feel pressured to do so as soon as COVID restrictions ease.

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Paving the Way for Work-Live Housing in Singapore

Surprisingly, the government is the last thing employees need to be concerned with. Earlier in April this year, the government revealed that it believes flexible working arrangements are a key component to the future of workplaces in Singapore. After all, there are plenty of benefits to flexible work arrangements.

But housing in Singapore has yet to reflect that need. The only mention of work-live housing we can find is from the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) site. It was in their plans for the Paya Lebar Air Base neighbourhood, where the term is plastered vaguely on a graphic.

Most housing types and residential housing in Singapore still focus on the family unit. Living spaces are designed for different family types: families with young children, families who prefer more communal space, or those who require caregivers. But homebuyers are already looking for alternative housing types. 

PropertyGuru reported in May 2021 that more buyers prefer larger homes in less central areas. They favoured more spacious living spaces that could accommodate working spaces in their homes. We expect millennials and young couples looking for Singapore apartment rentals and serviced apartments to have the same sentiment too.

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What Work-Live Housing in Singapore Can Look Like

Private developers and individuals alike are already catching up. The new Lentor Modern condominium has a suite of coworking spaces to cater for when business execs need to host in-person meetings or for remote workers who want to work alone. Even the floor plans for its homes are designed with flexibility in mind.

Some Singaporeans are already envisioning how work-live housing architecture could work. Local architect William Ng even went so far as to redesign his 645-square-feet home to fit in office space for his employees too.

Or why not push the envelope further? Why don’t we re-envision future housing estates and push the envelope of self-sufficient neighbourhoods? After all, work-live housing are essentially mixed-used developments. We could think of work-live housing as campus residence halls or co-living spaces on a larger scale. These developments can offer private working spaces within the residential units. They could even include larger quasi-private co-working spaces sandwiched between the floors.

These work-live buildings could give rise to flexible working spaces that are integrated with the home as well. The office can be closed off during working hours and be used to offer communal spaces for other activities. In addition, more artists and home-based businesses can thrive in these work-live housing schemes, given the lower rental and commute costs.

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William split his two-bedroom unit down the middle, with his office occupying one side and living spaces on the other. As he designed it, he had the idea of having “two distinct and autonomous spaces under one roof that can be used independently and/or interchangeably.” There are ‘buffer zones’ between the public and private spaces, and multifunctional furniture is used to maximise the limited space.

Looking at the bigger picture, perhaps urban planning in Singapore could keep flexible working and living in mind. Public housing stocks could have more alternative housing types catering to remote workers. Layouts could include private alcoves for work instead of converting part of the living spaces into working spaces. These private alcoves could have in-built storage and desk spaces to maximise the efficiency of remote work. That way, remote workers can find more focus as they settle down for work, rather than retreating to the bedroom or kitchen to find peace of mind.

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Deep Cut: Work-Live Housing as a solution to Sky-High Singapore Apartment Rental Rates

We can already see traces of work-live housing in Singapore even before COVID hit. Many shophouses past and present housed businesses on the ground floor and residential housing on the top floors. Some public housing estates have low-rise housing blocks with commercial shops on the ground floors as well. But for now, remote workers and digital nomads can only contend with finding Singapore apartment rentals or serviced apartments with co-living spaces.

Increasing the supply of work-live housing in Singapore is one of the more minor housing issues in the face of the looming affordable housing crisis in Singapore. But planning ahead could bring forth productivity growth and positive economic impact. With a wide range of alternative housing types in the mix, housing in Singapore can better cater to a broader spectrum of the Singaporean population.

Though the URA may be waking up to that. In their ‘Space For Our Dreams’ exhibition, they are planning for flexible workspaces in the city centre and the various neighbourhood centres. They’re even exploring a ‘vertical zoning’ concept, where developments have clean industries and co-working offices will occupy the lower floors, and then residences would take up the upper floors.

It’s about time. After all, Singapore’s public housing solutions were designed to be foremost a social asset, rather than a financial one. Under work-live housing schemes, homebuyers are more likely to view their homes as a long-term asset, rather than as an investment vehicle. Hybrid live/work housing developments and building designs might be a way to cool down the red-hot Singapore apartment rental market in the long run. Because locals, business travellers and digital nomads have access to a wide spectrum of alternative housing types that better suit their needs.

Stay Ahead of the Curve

Experience the peak home office experience. All of MetroResidences’s Singapore apartment rentals and serviced apartments are all fully-furnished. You’ll have everything to find your focus: air conditioning, wi-fi, tasteful accessories and elegant furnishings. Not to mention, they all come with fully-equipped kitchens. If you’re planning to move your furkid abroad with you, we’ve even got a couple of pet-friendly Singapore condo rentals and serviced apartments too. Our Singapore condo rentals and serviced apartments are more than just your home away from home; they’re where new possibilities start.

MetroResidences Work-Live Units for Rent in Singapore

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Our 2-bedroom loft at Eu-habitat has a study area underneath the loft. But you’re never far from the city’s various industrial and commercial hubs either. You only need a 10-minute walk to Ubi MRT on the Downtown Line, as well as Eunos MRT on the East West Line.

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Our studio unit at The Central has a little alcove by the windows, where you can see the Singapore River, Clarke Quay, and Marina Bay. If you’d like a taste of the city’s buzz, you can head to the constellation of co-working spaces at Funan and Tanjong Pagar.

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Get peace of mind with the private study at this Robin Suites 1-bedroom and study. But if you need to head back to the office for a meeting, Stevens MRT Interchange is only a 5-minute walk away.

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Everybody loves to work in their bedroom. For the 1-bedroom loft at J Gateway, there’s a study area underneath the loft in the bedroom. But the Central Business District isn’t far away either. From the nearby Jurong East Interchange, you can take the MRT to Raffles Place in just 30 minutes.

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