Modern Life

‘Colive’ in compact luxury across the globe, no strings attached

By Kitty Knowles 5 February 2016

The Collective, WeWork and Roam are forging the next big trend: coliving.

Are house shares about to become a thing of the past? Perhaps for some, as a roster of coworking spaces branch out into ‘coliving’.

The idea of groups of people living together is nothing new. Indeed in today’s property market it’s unlikely you’ll meet any young professionals living in a flat on their own flat (and any who do have almost certainly pillaged the bank of mum and dad).

I’d bet that most twenty-somethings aren’t even that fussed about living alone. After all, who’d be there to binge-watch Netflix with? Someone to share a cup of tea with in the morning can go a long way.

The thing is, traditional flatshares can also be problematic, especially if you working in a new city and have yet to establish a friendship group who can help to hook you up with like-minded people.

No one actually wants to live in the party house after university; there’s internet, council tax and utility bills to faff with, and often communal spaces don’t even really feel all that communal.

The Collective, Acton. Pic: The Collective.
The Collective, Acton. Pic: The Collective.
A studio flat in Acton. Pic: The Collective.
A studio flat in Acton. Pic: The Collective.

The coworking revolution

This is where companies like WeWork, The Collective and Roam are breaking new ground, targeting ‘young professionals’ – that’s affluent millennials – and tempting them in with the promise of quality, convenience, and community. In some cases, there’s even the possibility a global nomadic lifestyle.

Reza Merchant founded The Collective while studying at the London School of Economics in 2010 with the intent of solving a problem he experienced first hand; the lack of quality accommodation available to young people in London.

The company now has six coliving spaces in the capital, where members pay upward of £1,000 a month, as well as three coworking spaces (including The Den in Bedford Square, where The Memo was based prior to joining Wayra as journalists-in-residence).

Targeting 21 to 30-year-olds, The Collective prides itself on offering compact boutique studio bedrooms, luxury facilities and a “hassle-free” living experience with fully-stocked bars and vast entertaining spaces.

It also offers all-inclusive billing, concierge service and room cleaning as standard.

“It’s a much needed option in the context of the capital’s housing crisis,” said Reza Merchant, CEO of The Collective.

“We are changing the way people can choose to live.”

“Co-living creates a genuine sense of community alongside access to so many more amenities than you would get in a flatshare.”

WeLive coliving in New York. Pic: WeWork.
WeLive coliving in New York. Pic: WeWork.
WeLive coliving in New York. Pic: WeWork.
WeLive coliving in New York. Pic: WeWork.

WeWork leading the way in US

One of colivings biggest proponents is WeWork, who last month moved about 80 members and employees into 45 apartment units in its first “coliving” space at 110 Wall Street.

The New York apartment block, which will eventually house about 600 people on 20 floors, offers similarly luxurious facilities, including yoga studios and movie theaters, and a specially developed activity-booking app.

While prices have not yet been confirmed, it doesn’t look like this lifestyle will come cheap; an investor pitch leaked in August revealed that the company believes coliving will account for 21% of its revenue ($605.9m) by 2018, and that its coliving arm, referred to as WeLive, could span across 10.3m sq ft of real estate (and serve 34,000 members) within the next three years.

“WeWork members are creators – entrepreneurs, freelancers, start-ups, even divisions of large corporations,” WeWork’s head of brand in Europe, Hillary Deppeler told The Memo

“We are focused on growing our ecosystem and making our current offerings accessible to as many people across the world as possible,” she added.

“One of the benefits of being a WeWork member is that once you are part of the community you are instantly part of a global platform: a platform without borders where people are more able now than ever to have a platform to create their life’s work in an inspiring and engaging environment.”

But WeWork is not alone in its battle for America’s cities, and faces competition from companies like the Brooklyn-based Common, founded by Brad Hargreaves of General Assembly, and Krash, which has venues in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington, D.C..

Coliving for globetrotters

One company, Roam, even offers the first global coliving subscription. For $1,600 (around £1,000) per month you can adopt a globally nomadic lifestyle, seeing the world and working with curious people from all over.

Founded by Bruno Haid, Roam currently has shared living spaces in Ubud, Indonesia, and Miami, Florida, with dozens of spaces due to open later this year in destinations such as Buenos Aires, Lisbon, and Kyoto.

The company has a more flexible approach to guests, welcoming everyone from workers in their twenties to couples on the cusp of retirement.

Visitors can take part in yoga jams and capoeira classes on the Ubud roof, the company offers local languages classes and invites up-and-coming local chefs to do communal dinners.

Kim-Mai Cutler, head of policy at Roam, said that for her creating a global network of work spaces was a necessity.

“I’m a location independent and work from all around the world,” she told The Memo. “I love this lifestyle and wouldn’t trade it for anything, but there are definitely certain pain points to it with finding reliable and productive spaces to work and finding community.”

“People are living longer and they have huge chunks of time in their lives where they’re not necessarily obligated to be in one place, especially if they don’t have children,” she adds.

“Technology enables us to work from anywhere, so I think people will choose places that are inspiring to them rather than staying in cities or locations that don’t necessarily suit their personalities in the same way.”

It’s hoped that Roam will continue to expand across the globe, but the company isn’t focusing on ‘gateway cities’ for the immediate future.

“We’re doing more travel-oriented locations, we can build a product that has a really high finish and aesthetic that would be hard to pull off in an expensive and very space-constrained city.”

Roam coliving in Indonesia. Pic: Roam.

Trend for 2016

Coliving may not be the cheapest option, but it’s easy to see how the affluent young will be won over. As rents in urban centres continue to spiral, perhaps coliving companies will broaden their audience, with spaces more suited for older couples or single working professionals.

In a world where businesses are increasingly able to offer us what we want, when we want, and you can split an UberPool with a stranger, order healthy restaurant quality food to your home, and even get a massage on the go, it’s only natural that coliving becomes the next big trend.