COLIVING – OUR FUTURE
Leah Ziliak, Coliving Consultant and Community Experience Specialist at SALTO, looks to the future of coliving in 2023 and beyond
One of the fastest growing real estate classes out there, coliving, is gaining serious traction in all corners of the world. In 2020, the year of social isolation, many people wondered if coliving would survive the pandemic. Now, heading into 2023, the narrative has shifted completely. Coliving is helping us to lead happier, longer lives and might be the solution to some of the biggest issues our world is facing. It’s clear that shared living is the future of housing. But what exactly does that future look like?
I’m from the US originally, but I’ve been traveling as a digital nomad for the last several years. With my work, I’ve had the unique opportunity to experience coliving all over the globe and I’ve noticed that the coliving industry can look quite different depending on where you are in the world. Let’s take a look at some of the key trends we see in the industry from a global perspective.
Key trend – coliving as a luxury
Coliving isn’t just for students and hippies. Coliving is an elevated version of shared living and in some cases, a luxury experience. If we take a look at the coliving industry in the US, many projects fall under this ‘luxury’ category. These types of coliving spaces tend to be located in larger cities like New York, San Francisco and Chicago and come with more upscale amenities than you would expect in a traditional shared living space. Think rooftop terraces, fitness centres and in-house cafes, with furniture that is less ‘budget-friendly-IKEA’ and more ‘West-Elm-chic.’
Treehouse Coliving in Los Angeles, for example, has a professional-grade production, a recording studio on-site for aspiring musicians and the laundry room features an art studio. A library, a lounge and of course, a treehouse, make up additional communal spaces.
I’ve noticed that when people write about modern-day coliving, most news articles tend to refer to it as an ‘affordable way to live in big cities’ and although it definitely can be, in many cases, affordability has nothing to do with it. People are willing to pay more, even if it means sharing spaces if it enables them to have higher quality experiences and amenities. 78% of millennials would rather spend their money on an experience or an event over a physical item. Coliving is a community experience and community can come at a premium. On top of that, many of today’s youth have radically different values than their parents. They value freedom, convenience and flexibility. Homeownership isn’t a requirement (or often a viable option) like it was for their parents. All of this makes the future of housing look much different. But, in many cities worldwide, coliving isn’t just a luxury, it’s essential…
Key trend – coliving as a necessity
Coliving is more than an incredible product, it’s incredibly necessary. By 2030, nearly 9% of the world will live in 41 megacities, most of them being located in Asia. By 2050, two out of every three people will live in cities or urban centres. There simply isn’t enough housing to match these numbers. Coliving will (and must) play a role in helping to meet these demands in the future.
Take India, for example, a country with more than 1.4 billion people. Its population is set to surpass China in 2023. Coliving is already quite popular, but the number of beds in the coliving sector is expected to double in India from 2021 to 2024. This sharp increase is happening partly because of the demand for a more social way of living, but in part… because it has to. A rapidly growing population needs rapidly growing housing solutions.
The housing crisis in the UK is also in a dire situation. The country needs to build 340,000 homes every year until 2031 to meet demand and two fifths of all new homes need to be categorised as ‘affordable.’ In many cities and regions worldwide, coliving will be key to assisting in the massive urban density problem. As the need for a more circular economy grows, we will also see older buildings being renovated and repurposed for coliving projects to not only bring neighbourhoods to life, but to create truly unique spaces.
We’re seeing this often with various modern hostel brands. For example, Generator Amsterdam took a former university zoological building and transformed it into a shared living space, utilising the former lecture hall as a coworking space with classroom-style seating. In Canada, a former jail now serves as a youth hostel, giving tourists the opportunity to sleep in their own private prison cells. Kex in Iceland is housed in an old biscuit factory and serves fresh baked goods every morning. It’s kitschy enough to make it appealing, but the spaces are practical enough for it to be a genuinely smart solution. The world isn’t big enough for everyone to have a single-family home. We need more space. We need more coliving. As cities become more and more crowded, many people are looking for other (quieter) options.
Key trend – rural coliving
Remote work has opened up doors in a myriad of ways. If you can work from anywhere, why not work from somewhere that inspires you? For many, it’s fresh air and wide open spaces that bring out their best work.
Rural coliving is a trend that’s rapidly growing, especially across Europe. You’ll find coliving communities in sleepy seaside villages in Spain, in the mountains of Bulgaria and across the German countryside. You can even colive and cowork from a 12th-century castle tucked within a forest in Normandy. The options are endless. For many people, rural coliving offers the best of both worlds, swapping city commutes and lonely apartments for forest hikes and a strong community.
By 2028, it’s estimated that 73% of all teams will have remote workers. Studies show that 99% of people would choose to work remotely (at least part of the time) for the rest of their careers. With an increase in remote work, we see an increase in these types of rural communities as more people are able to leave the cities. The most interesting thing to me about rural coliving is how well it demonstrates the power of community in coliving/coworking spaces. Take one of SALTO’s Community Partners, Coworking Bansko, for example, a rural coworking community based in the Pirin Mountains of Bulgaria. Thousands of digital nomads and expats go to Bansko every year. If you’re wondering where Bansko is, you’re not alone. A small mountain village in the middle of Bulgaria, located 2+ hours from the nearest airport, it’s not your typical tourist hotspot..
So, why do some of the world’s most well-travelled people flock to Bulgaria’s tiny ski resort town? The answer is the community. With rural coliving, people don’t always come to a place for the destination itself; they come for the people they’ll meet when they get there.
Rural coliving communities are bringing people to regions that likely wouldn’t have been on their radar without them. In Europe especially, we’ll continue to see rural coliving grow and thrive into 2023. Technology is creating a world of new possibilities and bringing value to people’s lives in so many ways. SALTO understands this and works with partners and clients to further support this more connected, tech-driven future.
Key trend – senior & multi-generational coliving
One of the biggest shifts within the coliving industry in the coming years is in the demographic itself. Coliving isn’t just for millennials. There’s a place for coliving across the ages. Take a look at Priya Coliving, for example. One glance at their website and you can see that they do things differently than a traditional senior living space. With a welcoming, global community and an emphasis on experiences, it’s shared living for the modern senior. Their community experiences go beyond what you’d expect. With mentorship exchanges, career coaching and even an incubator program for continued growth, it’s the kind of place where members truly live an inspired life. As we see more and more spaces raising the bar and offering these types of opportunities, we will see more popping up. There’s already a strong demand for a new take on senior living; the coliving industry just needs to catch up to meet it.
Check out the statistics and you’ll see that senior-focused coliving is much-needed. More than 20% of the EU’s population is over 65 and it’s predicted that by 2100, 14% of the population will be over 80. Apart from the need to find proper housing for this demographic, community living has extended health benefits, especially for seniors. Studies show that social isolation is associated with a 50% increased risk of dementia. Loneliness is associated with a 29% increase in heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke. Community living keeps people healthier longer, which means many will begin to see it, not just as a housing solution but as a way to keep the older generation living independently for longer, avoiding the need for expensive long-term care facilities.
Beyond senior coliving, I also foresee an increase in multigenerational coliving projects. As the saying goes, ‘it takes a village’ to raise a child. But for so long, modern families have been on their own. We see a desire to get back to the way things used to be when neighbours played a bigger role in our daily lives. Coliving can make life easier for so many different demographics – single parents, families with young children, the elderly, students, entrepreneurs, the list goes on. In the future, millennials won’t be the only demographic that comes to mind when we talk about coliving.
Key trend – tech in coliving
When we talk about coliving, the first word that comes to mind is ‘community.’ The second? Convenience. Coliving makes life more convenient in every way; in many cases, it’s housing as a service. With a built-in community, furnished spaces, amenities, events and local partnerships, coliving is the modern answer to communal living.
As coliving grows, proptech companies are looking for ways to enhance the customer experience. With many coliving spaces utilising community apps, keyless access control systems and even housemate compatibility matching services, having a seamless tech experience in shared living is becoming increasingly important. HIVE Coliving in Dubai utilises SALTO’s access control to enable keyless entry for all of their private and communal spaces, offering enhanced security and peace of mind. With 120 units in their flagship property, having an access control system makes life easier for both users and the operations team. At SALTO, coliving has seen such massive growth that the sector now has its own division of the company. The need for tech in coliving is growing across the board and is proven by the number of tech partners and integrations that SALTO currently works with that focus on coliving.
Along with enhanced security and ease of access, operators are also looking to integrate additional value (and income) into their spaces through extra concierge services. Tech opens up limitless possibilities when it comes to providing a solid customer experience and enabling operators to scale their brands. As coliving grows, we will see massive growth in coliving-focused prop-tech companies across the board.
Key trend – digital nomad coliving
With often no more than a laptop and a backpack, digital nomads hop around the globe, working remotely from some of the world’s most exotic destinations, which has given rise to a very specific sector of shared living. With many digital nomads being solo travellers, it can be hard to find a sense of community while jet setting. Many nomads are successful entrepreneurs in their 30’s and 40’s. Airbnbs get lonely and hostels often have too much of a party vibe for this particular demographic, which is why coliving has been such a perfect solution.
Digital Nomad coliving has long since been a staple across Asia (Bali in particular.) Although the intense travel restrictions across the continent put many coliving spaces out of business, the digital nomad-focused spaces in Asia are beginning to see a resurgence. In some cases, coliving spaces are popping up in what are already considered ‘nomad hot spots.’ Take Medellin in Colombia for example. Over the past several years, it’s become one of the top nomad destinations, and because of that, now we’re seeing a big increase in coliving spaces.
But in other cases, a region becomes a ‘nomad hot spot’ because there’s a coliving community. For example, the Digital Nomad Village in Madeira is an island that used to survive on tourism and had to reinvent itself during the pandemic, becoming one of Europe’s hottest digital nomad destinations. As mentioned above, community drives people to a region.
There’s so much opportunity when it comes to destinations that are outside of the typical tourist scope. We’re seeing a huge increase in the number of countries that are trying to draw in digital nomads. Because where the digital nomads go, tourists typically follow. Digital nomads contribute approximately $787 billion a year to the global economy. Most earn their money from their home country and spend it locally, which makes them a particularly appealing demographic.
Nomads want coliving; governments want to attract nomads, which means leaders will be more supportive and open to such projects in the future. On top of that, solo travel is on the rise in general. In the last two years, the number of Google searches around solo travel has quadrupled, forcing the entire travel and hospitality industry to think differently about its offerings.
Key trend – hybrid hospitality
Hybrid Hospitality is a blend of the traditional hotel experience, along with elements of the coliving and coworking industries. Hybrid Hospitality is a concept that’s modernising the hotel world and creating an experience that goes beyond having a place to sleep and eat.
Business centres are being turned into coworking spaces and hotel restaurants/bars are turned into community hubs. Instead of passing out brochures with the local tourist traps, hotels are serving as a launching spot to truly experience a neighborhood like a local.
This new version of what the hotel experience looks like caters to solo travellers, remote workers, business travellers and more. It offers a more unique, community-driven, user-focused experience. Hybrid Hospitality is the future of the hospitality industry and will continue to take cues from the coliving and coworking worlds.
So, where exactly is coliving headed in 2023? Everywhere. In 2023, we’ll see more projects in varied locations, an expanded demographic, enhanced tech solutions and niche-focused spaces, and we’ll see other industries utilising coliving principles. Coliving brings people together, gives the world innovative solutions and offers the support we all need to lead happier, healthier and more connected lives. It’s modernising the entire housing industry. There’s never been a more exciting time to be part of this industry. If you think community living is booming now, just wait to see what happens in the next few years. Coliving is our future.
Denise Maguire Editor of Irish Construction Industry Magazine & Plan Magazine