The Rise of Co-Living: Can it Solve the Housing Crisis? - Broke in London

The Rise of Co-Living: Can it Solve the Housing Crisis?

What do you know about about co-living?

Guest blog post by about Jessica Foreman

We’ve all heard of co-working spaces, where freelancers pay to use communal office areas and work side by side with other remote workers. But what about co-living? With affordable inner-city space a little hard to come by these days, these cooperative set-ups are on the rise.

What is co-living?

While there’s nothing new about shared housing (many twenty-somethings live with housemates), co-living is a new approach to the idea. These communal spaces are usually made up of small bedroom units, with lots of shared areas inside the building. Here you can work or socialise, with some communes offering regular events to help residents get to know each other. With one set monthly payment covering rent, bills, and room cleaning, this system is turning out to be quite convenient for time-poor young professionals.

The world’s largest co-living community has been established in London, catering for 550 residents. On top of their living space, rent buys residents access to a restaurant, working space, Wi-Fi, gym, cinema and a spa.

 The Rise of Co-Living: Can it Solve the Housing Crisis?

Credit: shutterstock

Which issues could co-living solve?

It’s no surprise to see that the cities where co-living has become popular (San Francisco, New York and London) are also well-known for their high-priced property rentals. Rent can eat up about two thirds of the pay packet of a Londoner – and accommodation is a big headache, even for those on relatively large salaries.

These cities also happen to have booming job markets that are drawing in more and more young professionals. It’s one of the reason that rent is so high – the housing stock cannot keep up with the demand. Even if you can afford to rent in these employment hubs, you also still need to beat the competition to get your name on the lease, and this can be even harder for freelancers or small business owners. Co-living communities can create a lot of capacity in a small space – and can allow empty office buildings to be fairly easily re-purposed as accommodation, preventing the need to spend time and money finding new land for construction.

Co-living spaces are also helping to solve another issue that’s on the rise in our cities: the loneliness of young professionals. About 60% of 18-24 year olds admit to feeling lonely, despite living in house shares or lively central locations. In co-living spaces, wallet-friendly rental prices combine with plenty of community spirit to kill two birds with one stone. Indeed, one report found that 96% of co-living residents found that this had improved their quality of life.

What are the drawbacks?

When you join a co-living space, you’re not just committing to one or two housemates like when you rent out a spare room in your home. These communities can be massive, which is great if you’re a social butterfly, but not so great if you’re a little on the shy side and value your time alone. Community is at the heart of co-living spaces and, in some of them, every resident is vetted based on their hobbies, interests and willingness to get involved. Indeed, with offices, cinemas and restaurants on-site it could mean residents are unlikely to venture far from home.

The nature of co-living also doesn’t lend itself to those wishing to start a family. In some respects it’s like a bridge between student living and more traditional property arrangements. It’s likely that people will see this as a temporary stop-gap while they try to save for a place of their own to settle down with a partner and children in particular.

While interest prices are low and rental prices are high, it will be interesting to see how the British property market responds to co-living. If rents in certain cities don’t stabilise or reduce soon, we might be seeing a few more of these communities popping up. For now, at least, it seems as thought its popularity is confined to the unique circumstances of London, but with markets in other cities across the UK tough to break into it might not be long before Birmigham, Manchester and Bristol embrace this concept. This won’t solve all of the problems in the housing market, but it might well address some of the issues affecting young people as they try to get on the ladder.