The “American Dream” is changing. Breaking from previous generations’ ideals, millennials, who like having the world at their fingertips, are increasingly choosing to settle down in densely populated urban areas rather than in suburban homes with white picket fences.
But just as millennials are moving to urban centers at faster rates than any previous generation, apartment rents in major cities have skyrocketed. According to a report by Bloomberg and Zillow, in 23 of the largest 50 cities in the country, most rental homes are unaffordable. In those cities, the majority of listings were too expensive for millennials looking to spend no more than 30 percent of their household income on rent.
As young, cash-strapped, ambitious professionals demand housing in the most desirable locations, real estate companies have developed the concept of the “coliving” space: affordable shared living spaces that include a wide range of amenities.
What is Coliving?
Coliving has been defined as “a modern, urban lifestyle that values openness, sharing and collaboration.”
More than just providing a shared physical space, coliving environments also provide their members with communal events, shared items like paper towels and coffee, and living room furniture. In addition, many coliving spaces are geared toward a certain demographic, such as young entrepreneurs or social innovators, in order to foster a sense of community among its inhabitants.
Coliving communities can vary widely both in terms of physical location and accommodations. Recent examples include the Polestar Yoga Community on the Big Island of Hawaii where residents engage in daily yoga and meditation routines and the Eco Truly Park in Lima, Peru, an ecological and artistic community founded on the principles of non-violence, simple living, and harmony with nature. Common, a coliving startup in New York, aims to provide short-term, dorm-like housing in popular Brooklyn neighborhoods for students and young professionals new to the city. According to Bisnow, Common plans to lease and manage entire walkups, renting out individual rooms for $1,200 to $2,000 a month.
The idea of coliving isn’t exactly new. In the late 1960s more than 2,000 communes were formed in the United States, focused on the pooling of resources. Membership was more closed than coliving spaces today, with residents usually having to commit to the commune’s purpose and mission.
The Rise of the Digital Nomad
Another trend that is amplifying the coliving trend is the parallel growth of “digital nomadism” and “coworking” spaces. Technological innovations, such as high-speed Internet access and remote desktop logins, have liberated workers from the physical constraints of offices and made it possible to work from anywhere in the world.
This idea of “digital nomadism” has led to the creation of coworking companies such as WeWork, NextSpace, and Impact Hub. And, the trend only seems to be growing. According to the Global Coworking Census, US coworking centers have grown from just one in 2005 to more than 781 in 2013.
WeWork, one of the largest companies in the space, has even launched its own coliving division, WeLive, which is in the process of building out its first coliving space, a 252-unit micro apartment building near Washington, DC. This new coliving space will feature mostly studio apartments ranging in size from 300 to 315 square feet, and will also include “neighborhoods” throughout the building with large common areas, commercial-grade kitchens, and shared dining areas (WSJ).
Coliving spaces have certainly transformed the traditional idea of what we call “home.” Trading in a spacious house with vast outdoor space for a “micro unit” in the urban core might sound outrageous to some, but to others it’s about more than just the physical living space: it’s about the access, inspiration, learning, and social innovation generated by living and socializing in close proximity to others. Whether or not the coliving trend will gain mass acceptance remains to be seen.
Image source: Stefano Montagner, Flickr