Co Living, Co-living, coliving
“What’s in a name?” Those memorable words crafted by William Shakespeare some 400 years ago came to mind when we here at JLL got together to produce our guidance note on the sector. When it comes to defining coliving, irrespective of how it is spelt, the term does surprisingly little to help us distinguish what it actually is. But could that ambiguity be its greatest strength?
Perhaps coliving’s equivocal nature in both name and physical form is just part of the broader trajectory of Living trends – that increasing interconnectedness of housing sectors and integration of mixed-use spaces in our urban centres.
After all, the future success of our cities will be measured by how liveable they are, for all inhabitants. If coliving is being sought, and provides an innovative, forward-thinking solution for certain groups at particular life stages, we should tread cautiously when it comes to over prescriptive policy.
In the UK and specifically in London we are gradually being instructed through the GLA’s draft London Plan in Policy H18 on “Shared Living” as to what coliving means. As such, the second wave of coliving assets filtering through the planning pipeline are quite homogeneous in typology. Predominantly being delivered under a Sui Generis use-class, the format emerging is of non-self-contained studio units of approximately 18-25sqm with an additional 3-5sqm of communal amenity space per studio. There are of course variations within this.
However, here at JLL we’re also working on numerous coliving opportunities that exist under different use-classes, including both C3 (residential) and C4 (houses of multiple occupancy) as well as C1 (hotel). And yet, moreover, when one starts to look at the sector broadly and globally, it is evident quite quickly that coliving displays far more heterogeneity than Policy H18 allows for. Legislation that protects occupiers and ensures quality standards is crucial, equally though, it is essential that policy makers recognise the ongoing transformation of modern lifestyles and how this applies to the 21st century city.
Without doubt, the variety and contrast, the sheer inability to be packaged and compartmentalised into an easily digestible definition is one of coliving’s greatest strengths. In a world where the lines between Living assets are becoming increasingly intertwined, those businesses that are less fixated on traditional uses and more focused on designing living spaces that surpass the ever-increasing demands and changing needs of their customers, seem best placed to adapt, evolve and succeed.
Increasingly, the focus on those nonphysical characteristics are the elements which are becoming most synonymous with coliving: the customer-centric approach, the hospitality-led management, the design-led ethos, the disruptor-operator mindset.
The intersection of student, multifamily and hotels is where coliving seems to exist today. And yet it is distinguishing itself and crafting its own narrative through the operator platforms and the passionately entrepreneurial individuals who sit behind them, who understand and relate to shifting occupier trends.
Moreover, coliving is going to become increasingly relevant to how we will live tomorrow. From a philosophical, societal, environmental, technological and sustainable standpoint, it is the responsibility of us all to ensure we deliver solutions not just for occupiers today, but for future generations. Coliving should and can provide that roadmap.
As the sector becomes more institutional, this nonconformity may create additional challenges for investors looking to rationalise and underwrite opportunities. However, product diversity, innovation and evolution are essential components to ensuring long-term performance. What’s more, this approach seems to sit well with those seeking both a defensive and diversifying strategy. Afterall, the notion that design-led customer-centric assets can cultivate community and create real social impact doesn’t seem that controversial to me. Now whether you call that coliving – what’s in a name?
Director - Living Capital Markets - Coliving