Flat-sharing made personal, welcome to Ruumi.

Dirty dishes. Pic: Mysid

You wake up and the first thing that hits you as you shuffle into the kitchen is the smell – definitely something rotten. The counter trembles under the weight of a month’s worth of plates, some still covered in food. Here and there, the scene is dotted with used tissues, socks and chocolate bar wrappers. What a mess! And the worst thing, it’s not even yours.

Welcome to the world of flat-shares. With average house prices continuously rising in the United Kingdom, reaching a new high of £493,000 in London this July, more people than ever are forced to move in with complete strangers to ensure they have a roof over their head. UK census figures show that the amount of people living in non-familial flat-shares in London is at double the national average. The highest density can be found in the borough of Tower Hamlets, where 21 percent of households are shared.

“People used to be able to own a home”, explains Jack Archer, co-founder of the newly launched flat-share site meets social network Ruumi. “Once they couldn’t afford that, they started renting on their own and now the problem is that they can’t even afford to do that anymore. So they’re either being driven out of their community or are forced to reduce the cost by house sharing.” Together with friend and business partner Pete James, Archer launched the website firstly across Tower Hamlets and adjacent Hackney, catering to the high demand in these areas. They hope to expand across the rest of London soon.

Jack Archer and Pete James, founders of Ruumi. Pic: Lucy Ellwood.

Having heard horror stories from friends about sexual advances and inappropriate flat-mates, the duo saw a necessity to improve on the impersonal listings which similar sites are based on.

“You don’t really know who’s on the other end of that listing, likewise when you have a listing you don’t really know who’s going to come around and visit” explains Archer. “Through including social profiles, we are giving people the opportunity to form individual connections and are giving the marketplace some transparency.”

With Ruumi, you don’t just search either for a flat-mate or a flat but both simultaneously. Similar to Tinder, users can browse profiles that are filtered by mutual interests, living preferences, friends, and general lifestyle. To connect to someone and enable the chatting function, there needs to be a reciprocal “liking” of each other’s profile to ensure compatibility. This, Archer says, puts a renewed and much needed focus on people at the heart of the housing market.

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Ruumi search by area. Pic: Ruumi.co.uk

In addition to getting to know potential flat-mates, Ruumi also encourages you to get to know the area and community of the borough you’re looking to live in.

“To me it’s all about the community and the culture of a place. That’s why we have area guides up on the website. It just gives people an idea, a feel for the area they are looking to move to, if they can’t go and visit it for themselves. That way, people will move into an area that they already relate to and grow the existing community. Rather than destroying communities, for example as part of gentrification, we are actually trying to build them up and maintain them.”

Ruumi thus does not only aim to bring likeminded individuals together, but also to enable the existing community to remain where it is, by giving people the opportunity, even if just temporarily, to stay where their job and their support system is.

“I’d love to reach out to people in the local communities. Obviously we’re a start-up so I am not sure when and how we’ll be able to, but if there’s a way of doing some kind of event or a way of meeting people who are in this position I think it can only be a good thing.”

In a way then, flat-sharing can be seen not just as a necessary evil, but as a communal solution to aggravated circumstances, even if it is less than ideal or permanent. In Archers eyes, despite the negative aspects of house shares that are commonly highlighted, there is much to be gained from living in one.

“You can live with different people with different perspectives, careers, viewpoints and that in itself is like a little hub of creativity in your own house and I know people really enjoy that aspect of it.”

If you are looking to rent or let a room in Tower Hamlets or Hackney you can find Ruumi at http://www.ruumi.co.uk/


Ruumi Homepage. Pic: Ruumi.co.uk


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