共居時代

玖樓打造共生宅
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2019 / 5月

文‧蘇俐穎 圖‧莊坤儒


當傳統篤信的傳宗接代、養兒防老等觀念逐漸不再適用於當代,而你我都會病、會老,就算結了婚,也可能得獨自走過老後的歲月。席捲全球的「共生住宅」如今也來到了台灣,這一劑處方,除了試圖解決房價高居不下的居住問題,更以創新的形式,打造出超越血緣關係的超強力連結,讓幸福生活,因而可能。


簡直像某個時代的集體記憶。來到台北求學、打拚的年輕人,在預算有限的情況之下,開始了遊牧民族一般的租屋生活,為了追求更理想的生活,一年一搬成了常態,環境卻總是大同小異,狹仄的空間裡堆滿了連年增長的家當,懷抱著夢想打拚的同時,台北生活之大不易,卻也點滴於心……

台北不是我的家

「可不可以住好一點、住有趣一點?」4年前,在台大就讀研究所的潘信榮、王維綱、柯伯麟三人,不約而同發出了這樣的想法。來自外地的他們,隨著離家獨立的興奮感褪去,面對台北並不友善的租屋環境,有了更深一層的思考與探索。

原來,在七、八○年代,台灣盛行著「家中有幾個小孩,就買幾間房」的思維,導致現今的房源多數掌握在長輩手中。隨著時代環境轉換,房價節節攀升,年輕人想在都會區買房更加不易,但隨著出生率下降,以台北為例,90萬戶的房屋,卻有高達6萬戶的空屋──轉個彎思考,當上一代的長輩打拚一輩子,就是為了買得一個遮風避雨的居所,若是年輕人無法負擔一綁二、三十年的高額房貸,如果可以擁有更友善的租屋環境,會不會因此生活得更自由?

租屋但不買屋的情況,並不只有在台灣發生。以東京為例,租屋與買房人口各占5成,但反觀日本法律對房客權益的高度保障,台北房租每年漲幅穩定,租屋生態十多年來卻絲毫沒有進步。

「每天在租屋網上滑滑滑,大多數都是奇怪的物件;如果跟別人合租,基本上客廳又都淪為死掉的空間,堆滿了屋主的舊家具或者室友的雜物,每天回家都只想進自己的房間。」柯伯麟無奈地說。

缺乏法律約束,租房一族的命運完全掌握在房東手上,「以前爸媽在撕小紅單,現在變成在租屋網,服務卻還是一樣糟。」想從解決自身面對的問題開始,為租屋一族爭取到更好的租屋服務與居住環境,促使當時未滿卅的他們,走上了創業之路。

你的日常,我的旅途風景

當時,台灣的住宿服務仍很侷限,也是為了增加居住的趣味度,「我們也作過很多實驗。」柯伯麟說。他們嘗試把家開放,在臉書上po文徵求短租的室友,高達10萬的觸及率,挖掘出了潛在性的市場。

確然,科技的進步,進一步改變了現代的居住模式,許多工作也不再需要定點來回地上下班移動,國際油價下跌,廉價航空崛起,在全球自由移動的人口越來越多,然而,「有針對這樣的人提供的居住產品嗎?」柯伯麟反問。

而對於當地居民來說,藉著旅人之眼重新看見久居之地的美麗,是當年的他們從這些室友身上所得到的心得。

因此,當我們踏入今年初才剛落成的「萬華玖樓」,這已經是玖樓在台北的第15個基地,規模更勝以往。在這一幢垂直聚落中,22個房間,容納了約30名來自四面八方的室友,有曾經在艋舺街頭流浪的街友,透過社會局、NGO的協助入住,也有從馬達加斯加一路旅行來到亞洲的法國籍自由記者。

由於需求不同,逗留的時間有長有短,「長租的人可以把文化建立起來,短租的人則會盡情利用時間參與社群活動。」柯伯麟觀察到。

不只是租屋,更是租一個社群

也是曾作為一個異鄉人,隻身無依的感受格外深刻,這樣的際遇,讓玖樓在服務設計上,格外重視社群的經營。

古諺所謂的「千金買房,萬金買鄰」,直到現在猶未過時,即便買不起一間房,還是可以透過社群的團結力,擁有人情上的支援。「以前都是講空間先於關係,現在是關係先於空間。」柯伯麟說。

透過各式各樣的活動、設計,讓毫無關係的室友發生連結,也是玖樓的特色。團隊經營社群的秘訣,其一,在於打造出每個基地的「社群配方」,透過調和與搭配,使得同一空間的居民,背景組成盡可能地多元;其二,是在團隊裡設置「社群經理」之職,並且在每個基地裡發掘種子居民,與社群經理保持緊密聯繫,「如果有室友失戀了,就揪他去喝酒;失業了,也幫他媒合工作。」柯伯麟說,甚至也有不同領域的人一拍即合,共同創業。

另外,玖樓的一大特點是重視公共空間的運用,除了共餐、工作的大長桌是必備品,好比6層樓高的萬華玖樓,2~5樓是居住空間,1樓則作為酒吧與展覽空間,頂樓是開放式的客廳、廚房等交誼空間,透過格局硬體的設計,以及資源的媒合與調度,讓這個場域成為有機體,每日都有新鮮事在發生。

我的跨世代室友

除了致力於提升租屋服務的水平,隨著團隊逐漸茁壯,玖樓也開始嘗試投入青銀共居的領域。

「台北有許多沒有電梯的老公寓,當長輩年紀大了,腳也不好,便會選擇搬走。」柯伯麟談到近幾年所承接到的私人住宅案件。

而這些大多是屋主的起家厝,貯存著一輩子生活的記憶與社群網絡,往往捨不得輕易賣掉,便淪為閒置空間,柯伯麟說:「我們鼓勵屋主把房子租出去,更鼓勵他們也為自己留一個房間,隨時可以回來。」於是,屋主也成為了社群的一份子。

三峽北大特區更是代表。透過新北市政府的邀請,他們將閒置的五十餘坪的空間大改造,成為10人同居的青銀住宅,「硬體的部分,像是無障礙設施、浴室的扶手,需要一一去加裝;沙發也需要夠硬,長輩才比較好起身。」兢兢業業的團隊,向主婦聯盟、銀髮族協會等組織請益,進一步了解高齡者的需求。

而為了幫助跨世代的室友破冰,藉由舉辦活動的方式凝聚起共識,同時達到「懂老知青」的效果,「讓長輩知道年輕人都在想些什麼,也告訴年輕人長輩有什麼地方是需要特別注意的。」柯伯麟說。

因此,可以說,當今的共生住宅,雖與傳統的客家土樓、大宅門等共居模式有著若干雷同,但最大的不同,則在於毫無血緣的人,可以因著相同的語言、價值觀,形成更勝血親的緊密群體。

而當人口急速縮減,少子化、高齡化時代的來臨,共生宅意味的,是面對於老來無伴、膝下無子的情況,依舊可以幸福生活的可能,這彷彿也呼應著柯伯麟所說的,這一路走來最大的成就感,便是,「看見大家的笑容!」

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近期文章

EN

The Age of Co-living

9floor Creates Convivial Communities

Lynn Su /photos courtesy of Lin Min-hsuan /tr. by Geof Aberhart

While traditional notions of raising children to continue the family line and to take care of you in your old age may be falling out of favor in the modern era, every one of us still faces the inevitability of sickness and ageing. Even if you marry, there’s still the chance you’ll be spending your twilight years alone. A concept sweeping the world, that of the co-living space, has made it to Taiwan, and it attempts not only to address excessively high housing costs, but also to create communities beyond kinship through an innovative model. A happy life is possible!

 


 

For many of us, it’s a shared memory of a particular time of our lives: as a young person, you’ve just come to Tai­pei to study or find work, and with a limited budget you start out into the nomadic life of the renter. As you keep hunting for that ideal lifestyle, moving every year becomes the norm. The surroundings are all much of a muchness as you begin to pack an ever-growing pile of things into these cramped spaces, constantly clinging to the dream even as the challenges of big-city life keep hammering away at your spirit.

Taipei is not my home

“Surely there must be a way to live a little better, to have a more interesting life?” Four years ago, National Taiwan University graduate students Pan Shiyin­Rung, Jerry Wang, and Spencer Ke all happened to set out to answer this same question at the same time. Hailing from various parts of Taiwan, and with the excitement of finally living away from home gradually fading, they found themselves confronted by Tai­pei’s unfriendly rental environment and began to explore new ideas.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, it was common for families in Taiwan to buy homes for each of their children, which is how we came to the current situation of people of the older generation holding a large share of the housing stock. As times changed and property prices climbed, young people found it increasingly hard to buy a home in an urban area, even as birthrates declined. As a result, if we look at Tai­pei, we see some 60,000 empty properties out of a total of 900,000. The older generations worked hard to put a roof over their heads, but today’s youth are unable to bear the burden of a 20- or 30-year mortgage. If the rental environment were a bit friendlier, surely they would be able to live a little better.

With little in the way of legal protections, renters often find their fates in the hands of their landlords. “Our parents used to rely on neighborhood bulletin boards to find places, but these days we have the Internet for that. Yet the quality of rental services hasn’t improved one bit.” And so it was that our trio of twentysomethings began thinking about ways not only to solve this problem for themselves, but to fight for better rental service and living environments for renters at large. Thus they set out on their entrepreneurial path.

Your everyday life, my exotic scenery

At the time, accommodation services were still very limited in Taiwan. To try and make things more interesting, Ke says, “We tried a whole range of experiments.” They experimented with opening up their homes and posting on Facebook looking for short-term roommates. They got over 100,000 clicks, which helped them to feel out the scale of the potential market.

Technology has certainly changed modern modes of living, with many jobs no longer requiring to-and-fro commutes to particular places. International oil prices have fallen, low-cost airlines have arisen, and more and more people are moving freely around the globe. But, asks Ke, “are there residential products targeted at these people?”

What local residents get out of such travelers is a means to rediscover the beauty of their familiar surroundings through the fresh eyes of their roommates or housemates.

And so when we stepped into the newly inaugurated 9floor Wan­hua, their 15th location in Tai­pei, we found a place bigger and better than ever. Arranged as a kind of vertical settlement, the site comprises 22 rooms that can accommodate around 30 people from all over. Some are here for a short time only, others for longer, all based on their particular needs. “The long-termers can build a culture, while the short-termers make the most of their time to take part in community activities,” observes Ke.

More than just a home

Coming from elsewhere, one can experience a profound feeling of being an isolated outsider. Having experienced this themselves has inspired the team at 9floor to pay particular attention to the community side of their services.

Through both the design of their sites and the organ­ization of activities, they help forge connections between previously unconnected residents. This is what makes 9floor special. Their secret is two-fold. First, they create a special “community formula” for each location, mixing and matching to assemble a community of people with as diverse a range of backgrounds as possible. Second, they have specially appointed community managers and in each location they seek out “seed residents” who can work closely with the manager to create community connections. If residents from different fields of expertise hit it off, they may even decide to go into business together.

Another big feature of 9floor is their focus on the use of shared spaces. Not only are big tables in their shared dining and working areas a must, through careful inter­ior layout design they coordinate resources in such a way as to encourage the living spaces to become truly living spaces, places where something new is always happening.

Sharing space across generations

In addition to their efforts to raise the standard of rental services, as they have grown older the 9floor team have begun to focus on trying to bring generations together in their shared living spaces.

“In the past most older apartment buildings didn’t have elevators, and so as people grew older and became less mobile, they would choose to move out,” says Ke, as he talks about several private housing projects he’s taken on in recent years.

Take the area around National Tai­pei University’s San­xia campus, for example. At the invitation of the New Tai­pei City Government, 9floor took on the work of renovating a space more than 165 square meters in size. They converted it into a shared living space for ten people both young and old, the first time they had tried this cross-generational approach. They consulted with groups like the Homemakers United Federation and the Association of Retired Persons to get a better understanding of elderly people’s needs.

To help break the ice between these residents of different generations, 9floor organized various activities to bring everyone together, hoping to help each side better understand the other.

With such moves, one could consider modern co-­living spaces to be quite similar to traditional Hakka roundhouses and other Han Chinese clan compounds. The biggest difference, though, is that the residents of these spaces aren’t related to one another. Despite this, through shared attitudes and values, they can form ties even closer than blood relationships.

With Taiwan facing low birthrates and a contracting, increasingly elderly population, co-living spaces represent a way for older people to potentially enjoy happy lives even without partners or children. Maybe this is what Spencer Ke is talking about when he says that his greatest sense of accomplishment in this venture comes from “seeing everyone smile.”

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