Better together? The rise of co-living.
It’s easy to look back on our first flat-sharing days with a sense of nostalgia. Whether it was being thrown together at university, or trying to make the pitiful salary of your first job stretch to somewhere vaguely within commuting distance, there are very few people who haven’t at some point enjoyed – and endured – living together with others.
There were so many things that were fantastic about living with others; a ready-made support structure, people to share a financial and logistical load with, companionship, or just someone to party with. For those lucky enough to live in university halls, then on top of these benefits came a whole host of practical benefits too; the university gym on-site, the student bar a stone’s throw away, maintenance looking after the kind of niggles that would throw any first-time renter through a complete loop (the luxury of not having to deal with the boiler man was a privilege entirely wasted on students…).
But, there can be no denying, there were some serious pitfalls too: arguments and alliances, filthy dishes in the sink, the weird smell that always emanated from one person’s room. Living in the same space as other people was often grubby, crowded and full of compromise. Not to mention, heavy on the Ikea furniture aesthetic. Wavy mirrors and a Lack table, anyone?
So it can only be a good thing that we’ve grown up and moved on to the ‘proper’ world of property residence, right? You know, that grown up world of hefty deposits, cramped apartments, endless commutes and nightmare landlords.
Well, maybe not.
The rise of co-living.
The concept of ‘co-living’ has grown in significance over the past five years, particularly in big cities such as London, New York, San Francisco and Paris, as well as in a number of South East Asian areas, such as Singapore and Bali.
What does co-living look like? Well, as with many a concept, the precise definition varies significantly. First and foremost, co-living spaces are – in effect – apartment buildings. In general, high-spec, stylish apartment buildings with an aesthetic, design and build quality that appeals to young professionals.
However, they are far more than this. The key term used by most co-living spaces is the concept of ‘community’. The apartments centre around communal spaces; be these plush lounges, bars, outdoor areas – or, increasingly, work and business spaces. More than merely having the physical space for community interaction though, co-living spaces aim to promote initiatives and systems which actively foster that sense of community. This tends to come in the form of both hosted events (film nights, quiz nights, lectures, parties…) and interactive platforms (with many spaces maintaining their own residents’ app).
Then, in addition, there may be other services included within the monthly rental; gyms, pools, bicycle, scooter and car sharing, laundry, linen changes, cleaning, office support services, concierge, even on-site cinemas and restaurants. The idea is to provide maximum convenience and functionality to residents, in a way that is easily accessible and generally incorporated within one simple payment – which also includes water, electric, wifi, heating and council tax.
Many co-living spaces offer entirely flexible rental periods, ranging from a day to a year. This is helpful not only for those who may live a more location-independent lifestyle, but also for those who would like to ‘dip their toe’ into co-living without committing to the lifestyle fully.
On top of this, co-living initiatives frequently require low or even no deposit. This means that these spaces offer an opportunity for young professionals to live in an environment that is of a standard significantly higher than that which they could afford if they were forced to accept ‘traditional’ rental models.
Moreover, the inclusive nature of the services offered within co-living spaces – particularly those pertaining to the work environment – mean that inhabitants have much greater choice in how they arrange their lives, approach their work/life balance, and prioritise what is important to them.
Work to live or live to work
In the section above, we mentioned that co-living spaces provide much greater flexibility with how a work/life balance is approached. This is because many co-living spaces maintain a particular focus on incorporating a business workspace element within them – and targeting specifically young professionals who are self-employed, freelancers, entrepreneurs, digital nomads, or who simply have a non-conventional work setup. This means they often include private meeting rooms and open-plan desk areas, fully equipped with internet, printing and other office-based services.
These types of spaces are ideal for those who don’t necessarily want the structure, rigidity and limitation of an office environment, but who still prefer to work outside of their domestic space, and who thrive on being around other productive and driven people. It means that the community aspect of the co-living building also extends beyond the social, and can become an important networking environment for like-minded people.
With such a forward-facing approach to community living, it’s unsurprising to find that the majority of co-living spaces put sustainability and environmentally-beneficial practices front and centre in the package they offer.
First and foremost, the very idea of sharing assets is one that reduces individual footprint and maximizes environment efficiency. Building apartments for a hundred people makes more efficient use of materials than one hundred separate domiciles, and centrally furnaced heating and water are far more effective than a hundred boilers running. On top of this though, because the sites are deliberately planned and developed, they are able to integrate concepts of sustainability into both their physical footprint, and the systems they use. And it all places a lower square meter burden on already heavily taxed urban space.
The idea of ‘community’ also extends beyond the (let’s face it, quite privileged) nature of the building itself. Co-living spaces see themselves as a part of their environment, not something apart from it. For instance, The Collective – with two sites in London and one in New York, maintains a non-profit arm provides funding to local charities and community groups. So just by living there, you aren’t merely doing something good for yourself, you’re doing good for others.
Indeed, the very concept of living, working and cooperating together promotes the reduction of consumption; how much more likely are you to shun a cheap purchase on Amazon if you can just ask the co-living group chat if they have a spare screwdriver (or teaspoon of sugar, or copy of Harry Potter and the Prisoner and Azkaban).
Not for everybody?
We made a comparison at the beginning that drew upon the social fun and frequent convenience that came with ‘the good old days’ at university. But for some people, that idea might strike far more horror than nostalgia. In truth though – whilst co-living spaces might not be for everybody - they aren’t necessarily the exclusive preserve of the gregarious, fun-loving, openly social 20-something.
In reality – whilst some co-living spaces do target quite specific demographics – many see a fairly eclectic mix of people who come together on their own terms, with as little or as much community involvement as they want. Quiet introverts who would normally barely nod at their neighbor can still benefit hugely from the practical benefits and immense flexibility that co-living offers.
In addition, the centralised regulation of co-living operations by professional teams means that many of the pitfalls of community living are avoided, whilst all the benefits are still gained. There are standards of behavior that are general enforced, without being overly controlling (you can be sure your neighbour is not about to have a ‘raging kegger’ on a Tuesday evening), services are professionally rendered (so no mess in communal areas, or arguments about who needs to take the bins out), and the management team able to provide both support and dispute resolution as needed.
Indeed, it’s the provision of these professional services that interests us most at Jackson Sims recruitment. The success of co-living spaces may be heavily impacted by the stylishness of the shared spaces and the convenience of the communal facilities, but what truly makes the difference is the professionalism, responsiveness and openness of the management team. Managing not just an apartment building but an actual community takes dedicated, committed and dynamic team members, and it is exactly these type of people that Jackson Sims prides ourselves in being able to place in the right role. We see immense value in the development of co-living, and will continue to support this with our recruitment practices across the globe.
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Jackson Sims Recruitment is a property management recruitment company operating in London and the UK. Should you be a candidate or client working in property management we have a multitude of recruitment services they can be tailored to you. Please visit www.JacksonSimsRecruitment.com for more information.