‘Is co-living the future of urban living?’ ‘Will co-living survive the pandemic?’ In the space of a few Covid-hit months, co-living’s star has seemingly fallen from ‘thriving’ to ‘surviving’ as the social benefits, communal perks and central city locations that once enticed residents are now supposedly putting them off.
However, the reality is not so clear-cut and casting a light on the co-living sector reveals it’s not only still glowing, but in some areas shining even brighter. Here’s why.
Community appeal stronger than ever
During lockdown, many people were closed off from friends, family and colleagues, while those living alone found human connection limited to screens, shopkeepers and neighbourly waves. Cut off from their community, people yearned it more.
Community is co-living in a nutshell. From shared dinners and group activities to plain old face-to-face conversation, co-living offers ‘community’ at a time when it’s hard to find elsewhere. With residents much more housemates than strangers and guests increasingly choosing to stay long-term - preferring homes to weather the storm rather than travel - the appeal of this ‘community’ will only get stronger.
For example, the founder of Los Angeles-based co-living space Treehouse, Prophet Walker, recently said that applications went up during lockdown as guests were “actively looking for a place where they’re not going to be alone and isolated,” noting most of Treehouse’s residents committed to one-year leases during the pandemic.
Monitor of mental wellbeing
Enforced isolation and social distancing can have a major impact on one’s mental health. The remedy? Co-living.
Not only do residents look out for one another - be it informal chats or formalised support groups via Whatsapp - but co-living staff can also oversee guests’ wellbeing. From direct communication with groups, buildings or individuals through apps to physical assistance, such as medical call-outs and delivery of supplies, co-living staff can act as ‘Covid guardian angels’. What’s more, operators can create social activities, such as online quizzes or virtual exercise classes, to keep the community active, entertained, connected and mentally healthy.
Co-living is more than just a support bubble and part of its pre-coronavirus appeal was access to incredible amenities. Whether cocktail lounges and sunny terraces or indoor gyms and outdoor grills, residents could access amenities that were out of reach if renting individually. Well guess what, they still can.
With co-living operators able to control access to communal spaces, residents can enjoy all the co-living perks as before. As the looming threat of lockdown hovers over the world, the choice between a poky two-bed apartment and a co-living space with a cinema becomes even easier.
Hygiene fears have been the principal stick for which to beat co-living during the pandemic, but let’s take a closer look. Depending on location and local rules, operators can effectively close off apartments and facilities to visitors ensuring a clean, social bubble within. Social distancing is as possible as it is in regular households, especially with long-term residents limiting the to-and-fro. Co-living spaces are cleaned more regularly and thoroughly than your usual apartment, while also ensuring the essentials like toilet paper and hand sanitiser are always in stock. Far from being a drawback, hygiene is in fact a co-living selling point.
Some believe the rise in ‘working from home’ will negatively impact the co-living sector as more people can move to the suburbs, but that view narrowly assumes central-city living is all about work.
In fact, the WFH boom is a major plus for co-living who offer superior coworking facilities - think super-fast internet, high-tech office equipment and ergonomic chairs - as a standard feature. Guests can therefore enjoy all the communal benefits of co-living and also have work facilities on a par with a traditional office.
How can co-living operators take advantage?
At a time of sheltering-in-place, co-living has a distinct draw, but what can operators do to further enhance their appeal?
- Shout from the rooftops - Enhance your brand and increase your intake by advertising your perks far and wide.
- Offer flexible leases - Understand that residents’ situations can change quickly during a pandemic and offer options to extend or cut short stays.
- Give long-term discounts - With current trends, this is the time to offer pricing and loyalty discounts to those signing year-long leases.
- Embrace tech - From automated communication, billing and housekeeping to more control over pricing, bookings and portfolio management, embracing tech like res:harmonics enables operators to maximise current opportunities and power through Covid to a brighter future.