Co-Living

Managing change or not?

In an ever more connected world, it is generally accepted that, people have a growing sense of isolation. The desire for a sense of community, alongside increasing levels of unaffordability and diminishing accommodation supply in many cities are claimed to have spawned the "co-living" concept.

According to some in Ireland, co-living units are “modern tenements” that should be “completely outlawed” and for now, eyes are on Niche Living (Bartra Capital) and its prospective co-living developments for Cookstown, Rathmines and Dun Laoghaire suburbs.

It may be difficult for some to understand but the co-living concept, synonymous with the millennial demographic, when done well, is a trend that merits consideration.

A commune (a French word appearing in the 12th century from Medieval Latin ‘communia’) is an intentional community of people living together, sharing common interests, often having common values and beliefs, as well as shared property, possessions and resources.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, boarding houses in cities, served as a transitory step between family life and independence and were places for new residents to get their city sea legs.

A bed-sit, a single unit within a house where a tenant rents a room but shares facilities, comes with a bad reputation. This type of accommodation arose from the low-cost conversion and subdivision of large Georgian and Victorian city dwellings in Ireland and the UK, into low-cost ‘sub-standard’ accommodation.

Rental Regulations that came into effect 1st February 2013 in Ireland were to see an end to bedsits as new standards required rental properties to have separate bathrooms, independently controlled heating, adequate food preparation and storage facilities and access to laundry facilities. Though the move was intended to improve conditions for renters, it inevitably reduced the supply of affordable accommodation for some.

Communities of people living together or dwellings with a large number of residents are not new concepts; so, you’d have to wonder what’s all the fuss about co-living?

Co-living emerged in the early 2000s in the United States alongside the digital revolution. In 2004, Mark Zuckerberg rented a five-bedroom house in Palo Alto, where early Facebook employees built the social network. For years, the "hacker house" or commune offered aspiring entrepreneurs a place to live for cheap rent.

Today, HaaS (housing as a service) online digital platform companies challenge the real estate industry spurred on in the belief they are revolutionising 21st century housing and satisfying new consumption patterns. Companies like, Medici Living Group, Open Door and WeLive have evolved the “hacker-house” concept into all-inclusive living experiences that come with lots of perks.

Millennials value experiences over owning things, apparently, so for those looking for a reasonably priced convenient living space in an expensive metropolis, co-living seems like a good a solution.

Its increasing popularity is rooted in its cost effectiveness and greater flexibility. With agreements typically less than 12 months, it is certainly less of a commitment than a 30-year mortgage or renting an apartment where you generally must stay at least a year. On the other hand, you could see co-living as an expensive option tenable for only a small section of the population; young tech employees with higher than the average earnings travelling the globe for work.

It’s certainly not for every city, however. Interestingly,  CBRE suggests “Dublin fits because of the high volume of tech operators we have from the US and these are used to this kind of living. To them, it’s not an alien concept”.

Node, a global co-living company, launched its latest development, in Dublin. According to Anil Khera, (formerly of Blackstone) founder of Node, its “new format bridges the gap between co-living and multifamily/PRS attracting global-citizens rather than digital nomads”.

With rising housing costs translating into smaller living spaces, officials and regulators must ensure these new living spaces don’t run afoul of our housing laws. Care must be taken to ensure PRS accommodation standards are consistent regardless of tenure so that these co-living projects, particularly in an Irish context, expand choice without compromising quality or diminishing standards.

Like it or not, the "hacker house," the "commune," the “boarding house”, or whatever your preferred name for dwellings with a large number of residents, is pushing to go mainstream and the co-living concept is transforming our long-held traditions of property ownership and a place to call home.

Change is real and inevitable. There’s no reason to fear it, all we need to do is embrace and manage it.