When I first took to the streets of Singapore and asked Singaporeans about their views on co-living, I was given an exasperated look with the equally confounding retort ‘co-what?’
To complicate things, some even tried to answer my question with more questions of their own, like: Is it community living?
You mean, co-habiting right?
Why does your generation have to attach ‘co- ‘as a prefix to simple words?
Are you trying to confuse me?
I don’t blame anyone for their responses, because quite frankly speaking, the term ‘co-living’ is a confusing term.
To clear the confusion, I have decided to set the facts behind this concept, which is being touted as the best new kind of accommodation for the millennials or those born between 1980 and 2000.
What exactly is co-living?
Image Source: Co-Living Spaces
Quite frankly, there is no absolute and complete definition of co-living. At present, it is defined as a modern form of affordable, shared housing where residents have their own bedrooms but share a common living space, which includes the kitchen and bathrooms, and a set of interests and values with other residents. It is initiated by the need to share a home, communal areas and daily activities.
Fundamentally co-living can encompass many structural forms. It might look like an ordinary house or apartment shared with the occupants of the house or apartment having the access to numerous shared spaces like a recreation room, the kitchen and dining room, etc. In other words, it is a living arrangement where the occupants have made a conscious decision to live in a more connected way with the people around them.
The demographics could also vary depending on the accommodation type; that is, with about 10 professionals sharing a house or 5 professionals sharing a flat or 30 professionals sharing studio apartments or co-living pods with a shared kitchen and living spaces in a building.
Image Source: NOLA
If you are wondering whether anyone would like to live like this – then the answer is – the millennials or those born between 1980 and 2000.
The next consideration would necessarily be the reason why the millennials would choose co-living.
Reasons for co-living
These are the factors driving the growth of co-living.
Image Source: Llenrock Group
The loneliness epidemic has stricken many young people, between the ages of 20 and 36. Social media and online platforms have served to help many stays connected, but rates of loneliness and isolation have doubled since the 1980s, with loneliness affecting people of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds across the world. Such loneliness or the subjective feeling of having poor social connections, which is the cause of many clinical illnesses, could be due in part to the isolated way present-day millennials choose to live. The work and home dynamics may leave many 20 to 36-year-olds with little or no time to interact with peers, colleagues or friends. The disconnected nature of modern living in the present hyper-connected digital age is another paradox of the 21st century. In such cases, co-living or living with other similar minded kindred spirits might be just the tonic to combat loneliness.
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In co-living, you are assured that you would have someone to chat with when you are back home from work. Although no one likes to talk about it or admit it, it is relatively accurate that making new friends as an adult can be quite tricky for some, especially after university. When such an individual opts to be part of a co-living community, it is an easy way to meet new people and forge relationships.
It’s also been scientifically proven to be good for our health to live socially as part of a community.
When the conventional house is expensive, hard to find and does not meet the needs of most millennials, there is a need for alternative housing arrangements. The soaring prices of properties have made it difficult for millennials who migrate to expensive cities to start purchasing their own homes. This has led to many having to rent or look for short-term alternatives. However, in the current housing market, graduates with well-paying jobs are struggling even to pay the rent on a place of their own. As a result, millennials, who don’t want to move back in with their parents turn to co-living, which is an attractive option.
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Higher cost of Living
Also, to save on high mortgage repayments, residents living in co-living spaces in most cases pay an all-inclusive price that covers electricity, TV, wi-fi, the gym, repairs and maintenance of fixtures and fittings etc. So, there’s no need to pay anything over and above the monthly rental sum. In most cases, the monthly bill also would include room cleaning and linen changing. In fact, many millennials have described co-living to living in a classy hotel – with housekeeping and bill payment services on call – and yet with the added advantage of being in the company of like-minded people.
The rates of dangerous crimes such as murder, assault, rape and robbery are higher in the big cities that millennials are flocking to in large numbers. Given the statistics of high crime in these areas, it would seem wiser to live with more people and find safety in numbers.
Image Source: DMN
The decision to opt for co-living also promises 24-hour security for its residents together with CCTV surveillance. This feature makes it a safer choice for millennials in a new city.
The Future of Housing
It becomes quite evident that co-living is effectively living with roommates or housemates. That being the case, it gives cause to wonder why it’s being talked about as a new concept. It has been touted that co-living values things like openness and collaboration, social networking and the sharing economy but this begs the question as to how different this is from living in communes. Communal living has received bad publicity from the media mainly because it encouraged a sort of cult lifestyle and became associated with things like the hippies and flower power. This could probably be because the communes of the 1960s tended to be very activist and isolationist oriented. Their goal was to get away from society and create ideal living conditions for people who were usually anti-establishment.
However, it is a different case scenario where the millennials are concerned. The millennials are a generation which grew up with technology, social media and the sharing economy. They are also highly adaptable and much more willing to share facilities. That being the case it is no surprise that co-living is viewed as a modern, urban type of accommodation with shared living spaces wherein people with similar interests or values can come together. These millennials have no qualms about being digital nomads, who value being part of a community of other like-minded individuals. In short, communes or dwellings that pack in large numbers of residents is going mainstream as millennials migrate in hordes to expensive urban cities.
Thus, although some critics see co-living as no more than ‘dorms for grown-ups’, many entrepreneurs want to make co-living a major category in the real-estate market as they see it as the next big trend in the housing market. This rising trend of co-living has also proved attractive to investors and owners of existing properties, and startups, who have taken to rebranding the homes as ‘co-living’ spaces. Residents can join these co-living spaces as members and instantly tap into amenities like free internet, maid service, and new friends.
In Singapore, Hmlet, Singapore’s first tech co-living space startup, was incorporated in 2017. It runs co-living spaces where young working professionals can rent rooms and apartments for an affordable monthly fee.