Co-living schemes are popular in the US, China and Scandinavia. Renters live in small bedrooms but they have access to communal kitchens and living space as well as other shared amenities. The concept might sound like a glorified HMO. But the size and quality of accommodation and additional facilities such as gyms, co-working spaces, cinemas, cafés, kitchens and laundries – and the fact that residents are encouraged to come up with ideas to enhance the community lifestyle – means that co-living is increasingly being considered as a use class of its own.
The concept is still in its infancy in the UK. But the idea is catching on as Build-to-Rent providers spot its potential. There are a number of clear benefits for renters. Here are five reasons to take a closer look.
Communal living – co-living provides affordable, community-focused housing in serviced, fully-furnished accommodation with an all-in-one charge. This appeals not only to young professionals but also to older people who would like to be part of a community. Law firm Collyer Bristow spoke to 424 18-44-year olds living in London and the South East about co-living last year. The company’s Ownership Attitudes and Aspirations Report found that while only a very small percentage of renters now live in this kind of development, 74% would consider it. Lifestyle was a key selling point. Loneliness is an issue for all ages and co-living schemes provide a ready-made community with operators often providing a full programme of events and activities.
Single payments – a single monthly payment with no hidden costs is the feature of co-living schemes that holds the most appeal for renters, according to the same survey.
Scale – unlike living with two or three other people in a shared property, co-living provides renters with a whole community to interact with. That means far less chance of falling out over fridge space or who does the washing up! If you don’t want to be friends with your neighbour you don’t have to be – there are plenty of other people to spend time and share activities with.
Institutional backing – In contrast with traditional HMOs, co-living providers are major players in the property market backed by large-scale investors. This is a major plus point. Renters have the peace of mind of knowing that maintenance will be carried out on a regular basis, insurance cover is in place, and health and safety legislation will be complied with.
Effective management – co-living operators typically maintain not just the fabric of the building, but manage the communal areas too. If a development includes communal kitchens, it will be their responsibility to replace white goods and other shared items. And co-living schemes are more likely than traditional blocks to have a concierge and maintenance team on site.
A report published in February by the Social Market Foundation, promotes co-living as an answer to the housing crisis. It suggests that these developments should be available to buy rather than operators simply sticking with the current rental model. This would make owning a property more affordable, particularly in cities.
However, planning specialists at Savills sound a word of warning. They say the planning system is taking time to adapt to co-living and there is currently a lack of clear policy on potential schemes. But despite this, the number of schemes that have planning permission, or are in the pipeline, is on the rise in London and co-living is beginning to emerge in other cities too.