Monday, 15 july 2019 | Redacción CEU
In recent years, what we know as "home" has changed a lot. Our lifestyle, working domain, customs and needs have contributed to the concept of home being no longer so rigid. Nowadays, having an apartment on your own is not a priority issue. Whether because young people need a cheaper or a more flexible option, have witnessed a construction crisis or, simply, do not like the alternative, they choose renting instead of buying. The world of work has also helped the concept of housing evolve. New generations have come across a different work scenario where they now experience changes day by day: they travel frequently, collaborate on different and global projects, work in tune with new technologies, work for different companies,... Why not look for houses which also reflect these changes then? This is the idea behind coliving: the new way of understanding housing.
Seven Chinese friends bought and remodeled a house in Guangzhou in order to enjoy their retirement in it. This news spread a week ago in many media around the world. What initially started as a joke ended up in the purchase of an abandoned house of 700 square meters. Thanks to a joint investment of four million yuan ($582,114), this group of friends now lives in a mansion with seven individual apartments, a large terrace for tea, a room for meetings and a plot with pool and a garden. Probably, they would never have been able to live in such a house on their own, but as the saying says: "unity makes strength". This group of women is an example of how another concept of housing is beginning to make sense for some people.
Coliving is based on a different life approach. Its origin is in San Francisco, in particular, in Silicon Valley. The scarce number of available housing in the region in contrast to the arrival of young people with similar interests was a seed for the birth of this new housing model in which residents share both everyday and professional experiences. The idea behind the cohousing is similar to that of the group of friends in Guangzhou: sharing a residence with people who have similar interests, hobbies and expectations.
This alternative of housing can be understood as an evolution of coworking, since, in most cases, these spaces also serve as a laboratory of ideas for young entrepreneurs. However, people who opt for this model may have different motivations: fighting loneliness, enjoying new experiences, finding a solution to the lack of liquidity, meeting people with the same interests, etc. These shared houses are a kind of hybrid between hotels and residence halls. In them, residents enjoy a private space as well as access to spaces which are designed for coexistence like dining rooms, recreational rooms, gyms, halls or coworking spaces. They also have services such as cleaning, maintenance and WIFI, and even have free access to platforms like Netflix.
Although this alternative is still in its infancy in Spain, in other countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Tokyo, its implementation is quite consolidated. In fact, The Real Estate Market Trends report in Europe 2019 conducted by the PwC consultancy notes the relevance in the market of alternative assets. A study published by JLL also points in this direction. Specifically, it claims that the asset segment called livings –real estate assets for sanitary use and rental housing, coliving spaces and student residences– can grow by 30% this year.
Behind these figures, there are different realities. Among them, we can find the high number of people who move to the city to study or work. Something that also leads to the phenomenon known as "Empty Spain". Rural provinces like Soria have seen their population reduced by 23% since 1975, while Madrid has grown in that same period 73%. Coliving helps newcomers to fit in quickly, meet people with their same interests and reduce costs –however, this is not always a cheap alternative–.
Other reasons that explain this interest in coliving are: the quick growth of cities, the rise in the rental price, the change of mentality about property, the practice of alternatives such as teleworking, new ways of understanding work like that of knowmads and the proliferation of emerging companies with a technological nature. Nowadays in Spain we have already found examples of coliving like Hub Fuerteventura, The Surf Office, Sende, Sunny Office, Bedndesk, Sun & Co, Alandingpad and UrbanCampus.
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