• The ‘co’ movement is flourishing with coliving steadily gaining traction.
  • While coliving has enjoyed a surge in recent years, coliving is very much embedded in the culture and history of the human race.
  • Just like coworking, coliving appeals to different generations because it offers access to connections, people, events, and networks.

Coworking. Collaboration. Community. Connecting. Coliving. There’s a lot of co-existing happening right now, and there’s plenty more to come.

If ‘co’ seems like a buzzword, tell that to the 2.2 million people coworking in 22,400 shared spaces around the world (estimated end of year figures). According to the new Deskmag 2019 Global Coworking Survey results, the number of coworking spaces worldwide continues to increase significantly.

The ‘co’ movement isn’t just having a moment — it’s positively flourishing. And in true collaborative spirit, coworking is sharing the ‘co’ limelight, too.

Coliving has been steadily gaining traction for the past couple of years, with coliving pioneers such as WeLive, Starcity, Ollie, The Collective, and Common blazing ‘new’ trails.

In January this year CNBC cited coliving as “the next big thing”, noting that “more and more people are turning to coliving spaces instead of traditional accommodation such as hotels, hostels, or even Airbnbs.”

Much like coworking, coliving is prevalent in city centres and startup landscapes, particularly where rental costs are high, and is often associated with tech-savvy young people, remote workers and digital nomads. But it appeals to other generations and demographics, too.


Why Now?

While coliving has enjoyed a surge in recent years, the trail has already been blazed. In fact, coliving is very much embedded in the culture and history of the human race.

“The idea of living collectively and forming social connections is something that is hard wired within us and as social animals we are profoundly shaped by these interactions, bonds and shared experiences” said Richard Lustigman, Director of Coliving in JLL’s Living Capital Markets business.

“Coliving (or communal living) as a concept has been around for hundreds of years, perhaps most notably from the boarding houses of New York made infamous during the mass immigration boom of the 1900s”.

“However the modern-day incarnation of Coliving can possibly trace both its social and physical routes to the co-housing projects developed in Denmark through the 60s and 70s” explains Richard. “These projects offered families private homes, yet shared spaces and facilities and were born out of ideals of shared values and a strong sense of community with the social impact value being equal to if not more important that the housing itself”.

Coliving began to take on a new form in the early 2000s. Young urban people, often working within the technology sector or startups, leased rooms within shared houses leading to so-called ‘hacker spaces’, which allowed them to reduce costs by sharing space and facilities.

It also enabled people to form communities through shared interests. In the same way that coworking appeals to people looking for a sense of community and shared values, coliving today is emerging from urban hubs and people who have grown up with, and embraced, the idea of the sharing economy.

“In principle but not exclusively, these assets are appealing to a younger, more mobile generation, who want to live in the heart of our cities,” said Richard. “UN data suggests that 68% of the global population will live in urban centres by 2050, and young professionals are a significant component of this broader demographic migration trend, being led by job opportunities, increased earnings potential and lifestyle opportunities.”

Christopher Bledsoe, co-founder of coliving brand Ollie, took this notion further by explaining how the value proposition of coliving startups is to “make housing more accessible by spreading living expenses among more occupants or by eliminating unnecessary space.”

Linking coliving with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and the desire to reach self-transcendence (rather than self-actualization), and the idea that the highest form of actualization isn’t about “me” but rather “we”, Bledsoe notes that coliving is helping us to bridge our increasingly polarized lifestyles; something that neither real estate nor tech has yet been able to solve.

Coliving is Not Just for Millennials

As for who uses coliving spaces, Bledsoe raises an interesting point:

“…to identify communal living as a buzzy millennial fad or a stunting of adulthood would be to meaningfully miss the mark. In fact, an estimated one-third of the interest that coliving receives is from non-millennials.”

Writing for CRE Tech, Michael Beckerman noted, “Yes, the convenience, affordability, and community embedded in modern coliving models appeals to millennials, but retiring baby boomers also see co-housing as a way for “continued personal independence while maintaining community ties.”

Adam Challis, Head of EMEA Living Research & Strategy at JLL, agrees: “We often think about coliving for young adults and Millennials, but there is a social community aspect that makes it appealing and interesting for other age groups, who choose coliving for different reasons depending on their stage of life.”

Adam has spent time in various coliving environments, and notes on more than one occasion that “at 41, I very clearly was not the youngest one there — demonstrating that the concept appeals to a much wider demographic than young remote workers and digital nomads.”

Coliving offers social interaction, support and friendships, which has the potential to appeal to any age group, from students graduating from university halls and shared houses, to baby boomers who are already familiar with the close post-war communities they grew up with.

Coliving and Coworking

Will coliving and coworking eventually integrate? As the line between work and life continues to blur, it seems inevitable — at least for those who seek out this particular lifestyle.

“The core characteristics of coliving surround flexibility, affordability, connectivity and technology. Residents can sign up to flexible contract terms on an ‘all-inclusive’ price basis that can be more affordable than the alternative options.

“What’s more, coliving sits at the interface of where technology meets the physical real estate and are at the forefront of innovative, smart buildings. With so much design and creativity going into both the asset and the hospitality-led management approach, communities are easily formed, not forced.

“The parallels to coworking are striking. It’s not just a desk, it’s access to connections, people, events, networks. That holistic offer is far more powerful and valuable than traditional shared accommodation or flexible workspaces.”

Looking ahead, Richard believes that coliving plays into a much larger proposition for the future of work, and urban living.

“Truly functional mixed-use buildings are critically important for the future of our cities. The best cities and the best buildings within them will be measured by how sustainable they are, how flexible they are and how well they work not just for occupants today, but for future generations.”


Share this article