From WeLive to Roam, a host of new companies are setting up modern co-living communes around the world for sociable entrepreneurs. Jenny Southan reports
We’ve all heard about co-working, right? Over the past couple of years, this trend has moved from hipster enclaves to corporate downtown neighbourhoods; even mainstream hotel chains have been influenced to the extent that they have turned once transitory lobbies into buzzing work hubs. The new trend for 2017, though, is co-living, taking collaboration one step further to incorporate cohabitation.
The idea of creating housing for entrepreneurs and creators, rather like student halls or frat houses but with higher spec facilities, has been to build cohesive ecosystems in which to work, play and exchange ideas. Inspiration, after all, can come at any time. But now they are evolving away from “hacker mansions” in Silicon Valley to fully fledged, money-making operations.
Some set-ups are better suited to people working in particular industries such as IT or film-making, while others help foster cross-discipline conversation – be it over dinner in the dining room, at networking parties or ping pong tournaments. Some people are freelancers, others are in full-time employment. Above all, it’s about creating a community.
“In the future we will all be homeless,” told Dezeen James Scott, chief operating officer of the Collective (more on this later). “The median age of marriage has shifted from 20 to 29 in the past 40 years. This suspended adulthood and the rise of the digital nomad result in an increase in mobility and a reduced desire to settle.
“As we decouple the function of living from the physical location, we need to help positively curate more communities. Eventually, we will move to a model of subscription homes or providing living as a service.”
He adds that “in every other industry you’ve got an ownership model and you’ve got a service model [like Uber and Netflix]. I don’t have possessions anymore, I’m all about experiences and it’s high time that our workspaces and living spaces caught up”.So far co-living is mainly happening in cities in the US and the UK, where housing is expensive and for young people, sharing accommodation with friends or family is the new normal.
However, companies are also expanding into more exotic locations such as Bali, Tokyo and Mexico City, providing travellers and expats with a less lonely kind of place to base themselves when abroad. (This also taps into the “digital nomad” trend for working with a laptop from anywhere in the world.)
An article on forbes.com reads: “For Gen Xers and Boomers, the thrill of startup life was mostly tied to the risk of striking out on your own. Millennials, however, want a safety net to catch them if all goes wrong. Co-living eases the burden of living alone.” It adds: “For this generation, there’s no reason to own a car when there’s Uber. Or buy a dress for a work gala when there’s Rent the Runway. In that same vein, why pay for your own kitchen when it’s less expensive to share?”
For young professionals who travel for extended periods or are in the process of relocating, they are also the perfect solution. Staying in a hostel isn’t conducive to working and hotels can be expensive and isolating. Airbnb and serviced apartments can be a good choice but there isn’t going to be that same sense of community or the stylish resources or buzz of ideas found in a co-living site.
Six amazing co-living concepts around the world
Sign up to be a member of Roam and you can access its co-living centres in Bali, Miami, Madrid (pictured above) and London. Tokyo and San Francisco are coming soon.
Defining itself as “an experimental co-living and co-working community testing the boundaries between work, travel and life adventure”, one-week leases cost between US$500 and US$1,800.
Interiors are furnished by Tuft and Needle, and Parachute. All bedrooms have en suite bathrooms. This is a picture from Roam Miami. Roam claims that people who work remotely for a period of time report increased job satisfaction and morale, and are generally three times more creative when approaching projects. Living in a place like this, you can see why. (Again, this is the Roam house in Miami.)If you feel like a change of scene, it’s easy to take a working holiday in Bali’s “culutral and artistic heart” Ubud, where Roam also has a property.
Roam says: “Ubud is also an energetic technology hub teeming with remote workers from all over the globe. At Roam Ubud, you can work from your laptop on uninterrupted wifi in the rooftop cafe while new friends perform yoga in the open-air studio just across the way.”
Described as “a new kind of property company” that creates “innovative co-
Co-working giant WeWork is said to be valued at more than US$16 billion, and is now beta testing stylish co-living spaces under its new WeLive brand, which was unveiled in 2016. By 2018 it is predicted to be generating over US$600 million a year, with revenue from people staying from one night to one month at a time.
WeLive says: “WeLive is a new way of living built upon community, flexibility, and a fundamental belief that we are only as good as the people we surround ourselves with.
“From mail rooms and laundry rooms that double as bars and event spaces to communal kitchens, roof decks, and hot tubs, WeLive challenges traditional apartment living through physical spaces that foster meaningful relationships. Life is better when we are part of something greater than ourselves.”
At the moment it has properties on Wall Street in Lower Manhattan, as well as Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia. For longer-stays, rent starts from US$1,200 a month.
For shorter stays, private rooms start from US$200 a night and come with built-in single bunks or fold-out Murphy beds, sheets, flatscreen TVs, AirPlay speaker systems, wardrobes, fridge/freezers, glassware, cutlery, plates, pots and pans. As you can see, every inch of space is put to use.
You can stay for a few nights or a few months, it’s up to you. Membership will cover fully furnished accommodation, fresh linens, housekeeping, in-room tech, monthly cable and high-speed wifi. However, it will not match you with a flat mate.
All residents have access to common areas such as a chef’s kitchen, arcade, lounges, laundry rooms and yoga studio. You can also enjoy “all the coffee, tea and beer you can drink”.
More similar to a budget hostel, PodShare is a membership-based co-living/co-working concept that defines itself as a “social network with a physical address”.
What is a Pod? The companies says Pods are custom built minimalist spaces for social travellers. Twin or queen sized. Some pods convert from a bed (with a memory foam mattress) to a desk, some have closets and trundle areas for suitcases and all have a 22-inch flatscreen TVs with Netflix and Hulu.PodShare marketed at young travellers and “transitioners” who don’t have friends in the city to crash with, and “temps”, who might be working as a production assistant or at a film festival for the summer.Based only in LA for the time being, it has locations in Hollywood, Los Feliz and the DTLA Arts District, with just over 30 pods in total from US$40 a night and co-working spaces for US$15 a day. Every base has showers, lockers, laundry, wifi and community kitchens.“The future is access not ownership” it says. PodShare eventually wants 100-plus pods across the city to cater to demand. Every Sunday it organises community basketball matches.
Globetrender wrote about Zoku when it first arrived in Amsterdam in autumn 2015. This “home-office hybrid” has 133 Zoku Lofts measuring 25 sqm. Each features customisable interiors – for example, a set of steps leading to a mezzanine bed will slide into the wall to make space for a living area and access to built-in drawers. There are pull-up rings for getting fit, a place to cook food and a table to eat a meal while working on a presentation. Furnishings are from Danish design brand Muuto, guests can choose their own art, and wifi is free.There are also social spaces for networking, a 24-hour shop, meeting rooms, an on-site café (stay more than a month and you get a 20 per cent discount on food), and a rooftop garden with greenhouse for growing herbs and vegetables.
As I reported on businesstraveller.com, Lyf, which is being launched by serviced apartment company the Ascott, proves co-living has mainstream potential. It will be aimed at people in their 20s and 30s, an age bracket that is expected to account for more than half the workforce by 2020, and which is predicted to spend US$200 billion annually on travel.
By 2020, the Ascott intends to have 10,000 Lyf co-living units in a range of layouts – studios, twins and business suites with video-conferencing and hammocks. Communal spaces will offer Foosball tables, giant ball pits and cooking classes.Lee Chee Koon, Ascott’s chief executive officer, said: “Millennials already form a quarter of Ascott’s customers and this segment is poised to grow exponentially. Lyf is a unique accommodation tailored for this demographic, including technopreneurs, start-ups and individuals from music, media and fashion. Lyf will provide global jetsetters and trendsetters with the opportunity to ‘Live Your Freedom’ in a dynamic environment and network with like-minded creatives.”Lee added: “Lyf marks another milestone in Ascott’s innovation journey to design products and experiences for the future of travel. We are on the lookout for sites in key gateway cities for Lyf and we are open to both investment and management contracts to meet the growing demand for such co-living spaces – including Australia, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the UK.”