Coliving, also known as communal living or shared living, is a living concept where residents live in a shared residence and share common amenities such as laundries, a living room, a sports room, a movie theatre, and sometimes even a swimming pool! While the concept of coliving has been around for centuries, it has recently gained popularity as a solution for affordable housing in the city and the desire for a sense of community.
In this article, we will examine the history of coliving and how it has evolved over the years. We will examine the pros and cons of coliving spaces from a resident’s perspective. Lastly, we discuss the potential that coliving has to revolutionize the housing industry and offer a unique housing solution for young people and digital nomads.
The History of Coliving
History shows that humans have always sought to connect and belong to other human beings. The concept of coliving has been around for centuries, but its popularity is spiking due to the high cost of housing and the desire to reconnect with others.
Coliving throughout history
Hunter-gatherer groups and tribal villages consisted of several families resulting in a size of a few dozen people. The agricultural revolution had massive ramifications on the social sphere, as people started living in larger and denser settlements. True communal living became rare, but in the modern world there are still various examples of co-living projects, including:
Monasteries and convents: religious communities where monks live and work together in a shared space. The residents live in a supportive, community-oriented environment while dedicating their lives to spiritual practice.
Communal households: in the 19th and early 20th centuries, it was not uncommon for unrelated individuals to form communal households to save on living expenses. They would share a residence and common amenities such as kitchens and laundries.
Cohousing: cohousing originated in Denmark in the 1970s. A group of individuals would live together in a shared building where each one would live in a private apartment but have common areas to socialize. Even now this is still a popular form of living in Denmark.
Kibbutzim: an intentional community that was traditionally based on agriculture. Residents lived and worked together on a collective farm, called a kibbutz. This was founded in the early 20th century in Israel. Nowadays, kibbutzim are privatised and no longer necessarily connected to agriculture.
Coliving has evolved significantly over the years and can now appear in many forms. In the past, people chose to live together mainly due to financial constraints or lack of available housing. These motivations still exist today, but coliving is now more often a choice for those seeking to belong in a community. In addition, the trend of access over ownership is emerging, especially among the Millennial and Gen Z generations. These younger generations don’t necessarily have to own a house, so they remain flexible and don’t need to worry about the burden of ownership.
Recently, there has been an increase in the number of purposefully-built coliving spaces, which offer shared amenities and private apartments for rent. These living spaces are typically targeted toward young professionals, students, and digital nomads. The coliving experience is offered in both short-term and long-term options.
The trend of living together has also led to the emergence of several platforms that connect individuals looking for roommates or renting out a spare room. These platforms make it easier for people to find and connect with potential housemates. Compared to traditional apartment rentals, this option offers more flexibility and is better priced.
Overall, the evolution of coliving has been driven by a combination of economic factors, the desire for community and connection and the preferences of younger generations. As the cost of housing continues to rise, it is likely that we will see an increase in the popularity of coliving.
Types of Coliving spaces
Flat-sharing with roommates
In this type of coliving space, each individual typically has their own private bedroom, but the common areas of the house are shared. This can include the kitchen, living, laundry facilities, and outdoor spaces. In some countries, even the bedroom can be shared. But this is not very common in the Netherlands.
Purposefully-built Coliving facilities
Purpose-built coliving spaces are real estate developments that are specifically designed and built for the purpose of communal living. These facilities typically offer a mix of private homes and rooms for rent supplemented with shared living spaces, including amenities and common areas for socialising.
Typically shared facilities and areas
There are many shared facilities and areas found in a purpose-built co-living space, and these depend on the specific building, the needs of its residents, and the existing facilities around the property.
- Common areas: a shared space where residents can relax, socialise, and spend time with each other – such as communal living rooms, dining rooms, kitchens, and outdoor spaces.
- Laundry facilities: many companies offer shared laundry facilities including multiple washers and dryers. Sharing washer/dryer hookups save space in each private home.
- Coworking space: a coworking space offers an area where people can work and meet each other in a professional context. Generally, there are a variety of workspaces to choose from, including private offices, dedicated or flexible work desks. Coworking spaces think the same way as coliving when it comes to sharing, where kitchens, meeting rooms, and sanitary facilities are typically shared.
- Sports: a co-living space may also include sports facilities, such as a yoga studio, gym, or group fitness classes. Equipped with a variety of cardio and strength-training equipment, the sports room provides residents with everything they need to attain their fitness goals.
- Movie theatre: with comfortable seating and a large screen, a movie theatre is a perfect place to unwind after a long day and watch the latest blockbuster or critically-acclaimed series.
- Music room: a soundproofed room where residents who love to make music can do so without disturbing others. Typically the room is equipped with a variety of instruments, including pianos, guitars, and drums.
- Swimming pool: a more luxurious coliving space can even offer a swimming pool where people can cool off on hot days.
Short-term vs. long-term arrangements
Coliving spaces can be offered either for the short-term or long-term, depending on the needs and preferences of the individual. Both lengths of stay can include sharing a house with roommates or renting a private room in a coliving building.
Short-term coliving arrangements are typically for a fixed period of time, such as a few weeks or months. Therefore, travellers, international students, and digital nomads who are looking for temporary housing that offer necessary services often favour this arrangement.
Long-term stays are considered for a more extended period of time, such as several months or years. This type of arrangement is favoured by individuals who are looking for more stable, permanent housing solution and a sense of community.
Benefits of Coliving
Coliving has several advantages that can be condensed into the ‘Three C’s’ of coliving: cost-saving, community, and convenience.
The Three C's of Coliving:
1. Cost saving
A defining characteristic of living together is that people can split their living space and therefore, their living costs – like for energy consumption from the laundry facility or internet use. This creates affordable coliving homes with an overall lower cost of rent, utilities, and other expenses. Saving money is one of the main reasons residents choose shared living spaces.
Coliving communities of like-minded people are an important reason to choose a coliving space, as it provides a social connection that cannot be found in traditional rentals. Sharing a home and attending events with people with similar interests can help reduce social isolation and loneliness among residents.
Lastly, coliving is often convenient because it provides modern homes with fully furnished rooms and all necessary amenities. Furthermore, operators offer the flexibility of short-term contracts but also the stability of long-term contracts. For remote workers this is especially ideal.
Drawbacks of Coliving
However, coliving is not for everyone and there are some drawbacks to consider. For example, the lack of privacy and the need to follow community rules can be challenging for some. There is also the risk of conflicts with housemates and the possibility of damage to shared spaces.
Lack of privacy
Living together with other people can mean less privacy and more noise. There may be less control over who has access to the building or living space, as well as less control over who shares the common spaces.
Must follow community rules
Most coliving spaces have implemented community guidelines that need to be followed, such as quiet hours, cleanliness, and restrictions on guests, smoking, or pets. This can be challenging for people who prefer to have more control over their living environment.
Risk of conflict with housemates
Living with others can increase the risk of conflicts between peers. Conflicts can arise from different issues, such as noise, cleanliness, and personal boundaries. Open communication and being respectful of others needs and preferences are key.
Possibility of damage to shared spaces
Compared to private areas, shared spaces can be more vulnerable to damage because they are used by multiple people. This can include shared areas such as kitchens as well as shared items such as furniture and appliances. However, most coliving spaces offer extra cleaning services for the communal areas and/or provide cleaning supplies for members. Residents can then reach agreements among each other to keep the spaces they share clean and reduce potential damage.
The Future of Coliving
Despite these drawbacks, coliving has the potential to revolutionise the way we think about housing and could be a key part of the solution to the housing crisis. In the coming years, we may see an increase in the number of Coliving options available and a shift towards this type of housing arrangement.
While co-working spaces have already been around for years in the office, coliving spaces are a relatively new phenomenon in Europe. Communal living can be traced back to the earliest days of human history, but communities in big cities are rare nowadays. A coliving community will bring communal living back to the city!
Potential for Coliving to revolutionize the housing industry
Urbanisation is an ongoing trend. For the real estate industry and young people, coliving can be a great solution. One Shared House has extensively researched the housing preferences of young people and found that they prefer to live in city centres of the big cities but for an affordable price. To do so, they are willing to share spaces to split costs and socialise! In turn, young people are willing to pay for an extra service layer. The housing industry needs to create living spaces that are tailored to the needs of young people.
Coliving offers several benefits, including saving costs, a sense of community, and flexibility. By sharing living expenses such as rent and utilities, individuals can significantly reduce their housing costs. Coliving also fosters meaningful connection, as residents have an easy opportunity to interact and form relationships with their fellow housemates. And because coliving can take many forms, it offers a degree of flexibility that may not be available in traditional housing options.
Increase in Coliving options in the coming years
With growing demand, supply will follow. It is expected that the near future will see an increase in coliving options. Developers, real estate companies, and other organizations are investing in coliving projects and there is a growing number of coliving spaces being built in cities around the world. There is a potential shift towards coliving as a housing arrangement when more people become aware of the benefits of coliving, and as technology and innovation make it easier to create and manage coliving spaces. The future of housing in the big cities is definitely heading towards shared spaces with more emphasis on community and sustainability.
In conclusion, coliving or shared living is a living concept that offers many benefits, from the economical to the social. Not to forget, the concept has been gaining popularity in recent years and can manifest in a range of forms, from purpose-built spaces to being a catalyst for individuals seeking housemates. With the high cost of living and the increasing trend of urbanisation, it is likely that we will continue to see an increase in the number of coliving spaces available. Coliving has the potential to revolutionise the housing industry and provide more efficient, sustainable, and affordable housing options for people.