Physical connections not splendid isolation

You don’t choose your family, but you can choose your neighbours – to an extent.

It’s election season, folks – an incomplete Wikipedia list shows 46 countries going to the polls this year. Voters are being encouraged to think through how they want to live, what kind of communities they’d like to be part of and who they accept as potential neighbours.

People living here are involved. Someone I know is flying to the UK this week to hand out leaflets and support the Brexit campaign. He lives in Dubai with his family, but wants house prices in his home country to come down to earth and be affordable places to live.

Having kept up mortgage payments there when their home was worth less than the price paid, they never want to be put through that stress again. This is why they’re selling up and crystallising the capital gains. That family wants house prices to come down (after pocketing their profit) for the greater, and their own personal, good – which will be helped it’s assumed, if Vote to Leave wins.

On the other side of the ocean, electioneering ramped up the volume last week with Donald Trump’s 70th birthday celebrations. He made a major part of his wealth from real estate plays as well as selling his image. Do you remember him beaming down on us from the billboards selling Dubai’s Akoya last year?

Politics is about division. I’m taking a step back from all this and looking at what unites us.

Turns out that our ideal communities are tied to our politics. A Pew survey in 2014 found a marked, literally down the line split in how conservatives and liberals in the US want to live. It was 49 per cent vs 48 per cent of those polled.

One group wants the bigger house, more separation from the neighbours, and are happy to have restaurants and schools at driving distance away.

The other wants smaller ­houses closer together with amenities they can walk to.

Can you match the lifestyle with the political leaning?

A few months ago I heard Alex Steffen, futurologist and tree-hugger, say that young urban­ites in the US are seeking less space to live in, and more shared space outside to explore, use, walk to and enjoy. They can’t all be liberals.

My hope is that this becomes a sustained backlash against the increasing norm to dine alone – and to make more real connections with people and surroundings. Marry this with affordability – or the lack of it, and you get the following: dorms for adults. Think student accommodation meets hotel standards and services. They’re essentially luxury bedsits with shared kitchens, eating and socialising areas, and they’re popping up in many cities around the world. The more upmarket versions provide everything from toilet roll to yoga classes and an array of restaurants.

It’s capitalist flatshare heaven meets (solvent) socialist sensibilities.

For investors, it seems to be the next step on from putting ­money in student accommodation – I’m sure you’ve seen various developments for sale touting “guarantees” on rental yield.

According to those building these co-sharing developments, it costs around £250 (Dh1,303) per week to live in a co-living space, making it 25 per cent cheaper than a studio and about 25 per cent more expensive than getting a room on Craigslist. The appeal is across generations and phases of life. Some of these cohabit places have a ­creche, and organise regular pot luck dinners and various workshops.

A current marketing mantra is that people want to buy experiences, not “stuff”. I just think we want to have a life. One where we have a bit of cash in our pocket and get to make friends and socialise with them. We crave more physical connections with people we like and experiences we want. I think this is a good place to stop as I’m giving away a lot more than my money and life views here.

Nima Abu Wardeh describes herself using three words: Person. Parent. Pupil. Each day she works out which one gets priority, sharing her journey on You can reach her at and on Twitter at @nimaabuwardeh

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