3 Trends Driving the Future of Cities and Urban Living

As we go through the biggest wave of urbanisation in human history, how we plan, build and live in cities is being re-invented.

May 11, 2021, Gökce Sandal

With over one million people moving to cities every week globally, the world is currently undergoing the biggest wave of urbanisation in human history. As urban populations increase, future cities will also face an array of new challenges related to infrastructures, changing lifestyles, demographic changes and sustainability. We take a closer look at the three key trends that are re-inventing urban life: Co-Living, Hybrid Buildings and Branded Cities.


Our futurists continuously monitor weak signals of change across industries. Sign up for our newsletter to receive the latest insights on disruptive future changes straight to your inbox.

Urban millennials and the rise in co-living

Millennials in many parts of the world are becoming homeowners later in life and at lower rates. Moreover, as the square meter prices for property in urban areas continue climbing up, renting housing alone is also becoming financially out of reach for many. Hence, a growing number of adults choose to live in shared accommodation with roommates to split costs.

In addition to these more conventional house-sharing arrangements, the rise in co-living, together with the larger trend of sharing economy, has also driven the development of co-living as a service. Offering a mix of private and communal space, such co-living facilities often come with various amenities such as cleaning services, co-working spaces, gyms, restaurants and bars.


London-based co-living service The Collective has branded its offering as “serviced living”, where residents enjoy the convenience of paying a single monthly bill for all included amenities and connect with other tenants at daily events.


These places are particularly suitable, for example, for digital nomads, who may prioritise renting flexibly without committing to long-term contracts. Moreover, as co-living services often also offer a sense of community, they may also help alleviate the loneliness associated with moving to a new location and urban living in general.

Besides young adults, the co-living service concept also has appeal for seniors, as it allows them to downsize their property and free themselves from the responsibilities and costs that come with home maintenance.


The future of urban life is hybrid and multi-functional

In addition to co-living, another trend driven by the lack of space and rising square meter prices in cities is the rise of hybrid buildings and mixed-use spaces. In many Western households, living spaces have traditionally been characterised by neatly separated spaces that serve different purposes. However, in the future, both private homes and communal buildings will become more fluid to maximise the use of space, save energy and costs.

More and more services on the market today focus on using existing space more efficiently. For instance, the start-up Nooka is enabling people to rent out their backyard space as offices with their small prefab buildings. In Silicon Valley, which faces a severe housing crisis, a Toyota dealership is transforming its empty car lot space into apartments.

With the increasing population density in urban areas and evolving design practices, it is plausible that single purpose spaces become less and less common in the future. Both people and enterprises will find more creative solutions to repurpose spaces for maximum efficiency. This may, in turn, decrease the need for new constructions and further boost the growth of the digital platform economy.



A post shared by Nooka Space (@nookaspace)



Branded Future Cities: Private Corporations Become City Makers

Accommodating ever-growing populations and responding to their newly emerging needs is a challenging task for cities. As many governments lack the resources to build and maintain urban spaces, this presents an opportunity for companies to develop new city infrastructures and services and to showcase their brand in a new way.

As cities strive to become smarter and more sustainable, such public-private partnerships are becoming more common worldwide. For example, the city of Berlin has partnered with various multinational companies, including Panasonic and GSW Sigmaringen, to build the smart city quarter “Future Living Berlin”. In another initiative, Volkswagen partnered with Greece to build a model island for climate-neutral mobility in the Mediterranean.

People move to cities primarily for education and job opportunities today. But as digitalisation makes physical presence increasingly unnecessary in the future, citizens may be able to freely choose where they want to live based on their personal preferences. This will create an increased need for cities to attract new taxpayers and differentiate in the global competition, possibly resulting in more private sector ventures in city-making.

On the other hand, privatisation may also create a situation where cities are run more like corporations than communities, potentially creating gated communities that increase social segregation.



As two-thirds of the world population will be living in cities by 2050, the decades ahead will put increased stress on city infrastructures and usher in significant changes in architecture, urban planning, public transport and real estate industries.

Regardless of industry, any organisation that has office space and owns property will also be impacted by these changes. Newly emerging needs of urban populations will offer countless innovation opportunities across industries. Is your organisation equipped to respond to these shifts? What new function could your property, products or services take to create new value for future urban dwellers? 


Identify game-changing innovation opportunities and proactively co-shape the future city. Book a demo of Futures Platform today to see how our digital foresight solution can help your organisation become future-ready.


The Colliding Phenomena

To write this article, Futures Platform’s futurists have collected the data from different phenomena and found the linkages among them. Here are the three colliding phenomena that are driving the future of cities and urban living:



The concept of having roommates is expanding into new types of co-living concepts where almost nothing is owned and almost everything is shared with others. Co-living is increasing due to rising housing costs in large cities where young people are not getting salary increases to match the soaring prices. The popularity of co-living is growing, especially in the United States and Asia, and there are several co-living services on the market. 


Hybrid Construction and Buildings

Any new, large-scale properties built in city centres in the future are likely to be so-called hybrid buildings. The current trend of mixed-use development means that apartments, offices, business spaces and restaurants are usually divided into separate sections in a building. In the new hybrid buildings, the different spaces, services and functions will be linked to one another so seamlessly that they cannot be separated without harming the whole.


Privatisation of Cities

The private sector’s venturing into the building of new cities is raising concerns despite the many benefits. The rise of private cities presents new questions, such as who the owners of future cities will be and who will govern them. This competition may lead to branded cities becoming a trend, which will possibly create an economic divide.  

future cities

Leave your comment below: