living spaces🏡 for people
valuing openness and collaboration🤝
Coliving takes many forms, from commercial serviced accommodations with restaurants, all the way to grassroots community houses sharing potluck dinners. Every coliving space has its own character, yet share some fundamental principles and benefits:
1️⃣ bringing us together through proximity and exchanges with each other
2️⃣ improving our quality of life through shared facilities and collectivity
Some have an official community manager, whilst in others everyone participates. Whether just for a weekly meal, or with more elaborate programmes and events from accountability standups to laundry discos…
The uses of coliving spaces can span beyond being a mere home, even whilst welcoming us as one, to include work, learning, wellbeing and impact. 🤩
What are some types of coliving spaces?
- coliving homes
Also known as residential coliving, these are most often houses within metros and commuter belts, emphasising common spaces for interactions.
- coliving retreats
Also known as destinational coliving, generally in holiday and escape destinations, emphasising their location and facilities. Often used by digital nomads, and city residents escaping on workations for a few weeks or longer. (Also as popup spaces.)
- coliving complexes
Differentiated from homes as large-scale spaces with multiple common facilities, maybe even serviced spaces such as a restaurant, public-access coworking… Obviously the larger a space is, the less proximity there may be with others, thus social groups may organise around floors or apartments, rather than the whole complex's wider community, yet still gather and bump into each other.
Let's be clear, coliving is not…
A stereotypical flat or house share, in which anyone is simply thrown together by chance and circumstance — as opposed with purposeful reason.
A landlord advertising a property as coliving but unable to describe how they facilitate interaction or whom their community is, most certainly is not. Facilities do not define coliving, a purposeful and welcoming community does. Even though members of a houseshare may create a community of their own, it can be a bit of a clique no?
Since being conceived in the 2000's coliving has stood for community–living. But nowadays many landlords and property developers have seen the benefits of using layouts that reduce unit size to improve revenues, without even necessarily providing better common spaces.
As a result the term coliving is now frequently used by these types of revenue-optimised properties, loosing its original meaning. We therefore promote the use of the coliving community label to identify properties having purposeful connections amongst their members, not just as users.
Is coliving intentional?
There are similarities between coliving and intentional communities in that both bring people together as a community, yet a distinction in orientation is worth considering…
- with intention, members are attracted to and follow closely related approaches to life based around what we seek to do or believe
- in purpose a commonality of why we want to share and participate together is prevalent, with diverse approaches to life
In coliving we most often see a why being simply the wish to avoid isolation, loosely sharing amongst diverse independent lifestyles, as opposed intentional communities in which we more tightly enact a shared lifestyle.
An effect of this differentiation, is that intentional communities (including cohousing) tend to have long-term involvements and membership criterion to ensure community consistency, whilst coliving is more flexible and open.
Approaches blend and can be combined, so every community should be considered unique. We each may suit one more than the other, there are of course also pros and cons. In a purposeful space there is more diversity and thus opportunity for connections and ideas, whilst in an intentional space there is more immersion and potential for deeper learning.
Is there a difference with cohousing?
Coliving brings people closer together by virtue of proximity across many aspects of life. Living under the same roof engenders more collaboration, than simply by virtue of being neighbours as in cohousing, where common facilities or coworking are not integral components of interaction.
An example can be given through food—for independent units meals may be intentionally collaborative just once a week, whilst in a coliving space they will be participatory most of the time simply because the kitchen has to be used by all, thus encouraging interaction around it. The same for all other common spaces (workspaces, living rooms, even laundry).
Cohousing always has some shared facilities in the same way as coliving, it can however instead be identified as the long-term financial commitment from individual purchase within a collective project, and/or the layout as a mainly independent dwelling unit.
On the other hand coliving is most often rented, and provides a layout of private space comprising only a bedroom (maybe an ensuite bathroom), therefore does not overlap with cohousing on either count.
There are always exceptions, indeed use or even ownership of studios within coliving spaces are an example of a segment that could grow—unhelpfully blurring definitions.
What of engagement?
A community in which some members are not participating, is a broken community. One does not move into a coliving space simply to use its facilities—we join with the purpose of being part of the community, and investing effort to maintain it.
In a houseshare it is very common for some housemates to not participate, everyone is really just there for accommodation. Nonetheless this does also happen in coliving spaces, and let's not overlook that we all need some time alone. However when recurring it requires remediation as otherwise it harms the community as a whole. This is where coliving significantly differs as everyone is invested in ensuring the well-being and involvement of each other.
In so doing we find ways to include and draw-in new members without unduly imposing. Failing this, and in the same manner as an intentional community, such members will be excluded and evicted. Yet coliving is flexible so if one finds oneself not fitting so well within a specific community, we must all have an easy way out. Giving each other some opportunity to try is essential to our openness.
Some operational variations
Common with coliving homes and complexes, run by a management company, albeit one that has invested in community by either having a live-in manager, or someone who frequently drops around.
- lifestyle business
Typical for retreat spaces but quite uncommon in homes except the more intentional, their hands-on founders enjoy sharing the journey.
These are spaces that exist only for a short time, typically by taking over a rental villa or similar. May be organised ad-hoc amongst a group all sharing the desire to spend some time in the same place, and benefit from doing so together (as a community!), or by a business, whom offers it as a service.
- coliving hub
These orient themselves around a significant dedicated workspace within the same property. No need to commute! Of course you can always work from your room in most any space, yet collaboration and camaraderie are multiplied with a shared workspace, and especially if the coworking is open to locals too.
This is a legal and structural distinction. As with a housing co-operative, they are owned by and operated for the benefit of their members. They may be organised around rental members, and/or owners, however equity ownership arrangements vary.
Styleguide for editors
The correct use of the term coliving is without a hyphen, the same as for coworking and as endorsed by publishers. Whilst the English language generally hyphenates compound words during their early use, as time passes they are dropped. However for the words coworking and coliving, their hyphenated use actually has different meanings!
Co-worker is not somebody sharing a coworking space, but a colleague; co-living is not unrelated people living in the same space, but a couple sharing their home. Thus when referring to the new concepts of coliving and coworking, use without a hyphen is obliged to avoid ambiguity.
This page is maintained by the Coliving Identity Working Group, have suggestions or feedback? email@example.com