🏡 living spaces giving shared connection 🤝
Coliving takes many forms, all the way from grassroots collaborative houses sharing potluck dinners, to commercial serviced micro-studios with restaurants. Coliving spaces each have their own character, yet share fundamental principles.
purpose ⬄ proximity ⬄ collectivity ⬄ convenience
- ⭐️ facilitating exchanges with comfortable proximity amongst us
- ⭐️ improving quality of life with better facilities collectively
Coliving always provides spaces for members to gather together, notably at least a shared kitchen with lounge, and/or a workspace — yet quite often more besides!
Some spaces have a community facilitator whom takes a lead connecting everyone and organising events; in others activities are ad-hoc amongst everyone through participation. Whether communal meals, accountability standups or laundry discos…
Coliving is offered as a single inclusive price, furnished, with linens and housekeeping, yet no long-term contract so it's convenient to not only move in, but also move on.
You'll find that coliving is either or both:
- 🤝 people centric
having shared purpose enabling members and residents to connect as a community
- 🎁 offer centric
having facilities and events supporting community yet emphasising convenience
The use of coliving spaces goes beyond being a mere house, welcoming us as a home, to include work, learning, wellbeing and impact. 🤩
Coliving is definitely not…
A stereotypical flat/house share, hostel, or hotel, in which anyone is simply thrown together by chance and circumstance, as opposed with purposeful reason. Any property without common spaces is merely a hotel (lobby and rooms), or serviced apartments (lacking common spaces amongst apartments).
Members choose to join a compatible living community — not just because a space is convenient. Facilities do not define coliving, a purposeful and welcoming community does.
Since its conception in the 2000's coliving has stood for community–living. But with many new landlords and developers seeing benefits in using layouts that reduce unit size to improve revenues, this need and reward of community and common spaces can be missed.
Even though a houseshare may form a community of its own, it can be a bit of a clique no? A landlord advertising a property as coliving but unable to describe why their members are brought together or how they facilitate interaction, is not home to a coliving community.
⭐️We encourage use of the coliving community phrase or marque to identify spaces having purposeful connections amongst their members, and not simply with a coliving offer.
In true communities the little details and their member's involvement make the distinction obvious. You can test this simply by asking members «why are you here?» If most only answer because it's nice/in budget/well located, then it is safe to say they are not sharing any purpose together and the community may be non-functional.
Some different types
- coliving homes and complexes
Most often houses within metros and commuter belts (yet increasingly rural), for longer-term housing with like-minded housemates, and of course frequently using common spaces for interaction. Complexes are large buildings having perhaps even hundreds of units and diverse facilities. Also known as residential coliving.
For operators, rates are slightly above market rentals given an enhanced offering, for a small investment into facilitation and facilities; occupancy is lower churn than typical rentals as members embed within the community. Ideal with atypical properties and avoids wasted space from division into apartments.
- coliving workations and retreats
Mostly in holiday and escape destinations, emphasising community alongside activities and interesting locations. Favoured by digital nomads, and professionals escaping the city for a few weeks or months. Also known as destinational coliving, and sometimes functioning as popups or with programmes.
Rates are higher corresponding fluctuating occupancy risks, yet capacity is achievable with well-operated locations and a strong community. Positioning and investment into facilities need not be high as may draw on facilitation. A resilient model as can be adapted for long stays.
- coliving hubs
Combining aspects of both homes and workations, multiplying collaboration and camaraderie, whilst opening up some facilities to the public or external community groups, such as through an open coworking or events space. This mixed-use live+work format is also known as blended coliving although may be residents-only.
A more highly differentiated proposition having greater resilience with enhanced experiences, especially for professionals, and combining models for maximum utilisation across offers, as an ecosystem
- hybrid coliving
Properties such as hotels and resorts, having extended their usual offering to include more multi-function communal spaces so their guests may make the most of longer than typical stays, in a serviced setting at a better rate. Often seasonal.
This approach allows testing the coliving market with minor change to existing facilities and further repurposing as demand befits, or to enter the market with a more diversified offering trading some high risk occupancy for lower return yet reliable occupancy.
Learn more about differences between the types of coliving in this article by Peter Fabor. For a more general backgrounder as a guest or member we recommend this article by Outsite, and as an operator or manager this post by Jacob Jay†.
Some different approaches
The DIY approach, with a bunch of similarly minded folks managing to collaborate together to take on a property! What one looses with service-oriented convenience, one gains with stronger relationships, which may even be considered convenient in such contexts. Arranged using member's own networks, groups online, or platforms (e.g. CoStay). Usually having strictly curated membership.
- lifestyle business
The hands-on founders enjoy sharing the journey, as they are often using the space themselves, involve volunteers, yet whilst operating it as a business to cover its costs and provide some reward.
These properties are operated by a management company, albeit one that has invested in community by either having a live-in manager, or someone who frequently drops around to facilitate and encourage!
Spaces functioning only for a short time, typically rented by the organiser. Can be self-organised ad-hoc amongst a group all sharing the desire to benefit from spending some time together (as a community!), or by a business offering it as a retreat or workation.
These can be either be from an operating brand (e.g. WiFi Tribe), or informally with costs shared however this often involves the organiser taking on risk and expending significant effort to coordinate everyone.
A format variation in which rather than utilising a single building, an operator has multiple individual facilities which they link together, such as through a coworking space or events at each building for all the members. These communities tend to be much looser as the principle of proximity doesn't always apply, or only with subgroups.
A monthly fee gives access to multiple locations, suiting location independent professionals. They can be a complex business model, and supplemental payments at some properties or notice periods may be required.
Combining popup/dispersed and a subscription to make it easy to explore the world, changing location every month or so as a group sharing the experiences, often also with a programme and coworking to help get work done. However not all use coliving properties and may instead place members in multiple apartments… (eg: Remote Year, WiFi Tribe)
As with a housing co-operative, they are owned by or operated for the benefit of their members. They may be organised around rental members and/or owners with varied equity ownership. Ownership in this manner is equitable and reduces the living costs.
What's convenient about coliving?
Finding people amongst whom to live a fun and interesting life is hard. We can therefore say that coliving spaces bring together likeminded people by making them easier to find.
We can also say that transparency improves convenience too. Not all houses and communities are the same, and often with other types of accommodation you don't find out until after moving in. Transparency on values and the kind of people in a space, not to mention pricing and what's included, avoids wasting effort.
The most obvious convenience is that a space is already setup, equipped and ready to welcome us. Often with linens and housekeeping, operated as a fully-inclusive service (sometimes referred to a Housing-as-a-Service).
What's a purposeful or intentional space?
All coliving communities comprise members having at least some nominal common purpose, as without such commonality you simply find a shared space with essentially random people. Some spaces make extra effort to align members and enact living together…
- ⚛️with purpose a commonality of why we want to share and participate together is prevalent, amongst diverse approaches to life
- ☮️with intention, members are attracted to and follow closely related approaches to life based around what we seek to do or believe
We most often see a why simply being a wish to avoid isolation, to have good friends to work amongst (e.g. with a coworking space) and loosely sharing experiences amongst independent lifestyles. Therefore all coliving spaces have at least some shared purpose. This contrasts intentional communities in which we more tightly focus around a common lifestyle.
An effect of any differentiation, is that intentional communities (including cohousing) tend to have long-term involvements and membership criterion to ensure community consistency, whilst purposeful communities and coliving is generally more flexible and open, yet this cannot be assumed.
Neither approach is exclusive and both may be enacted, such as a home which intentionally curates its members, yet supports a purposeful community amongst them. Every community should be considered unique, and we each may suit one more than another.
In a purposeful space there is more diversity and thus opportunity for connections and ideas so tend to be oriented around professional activities, whilst in an intentional space there is more immersion and potential for deeper learning, such as in pursuing permaculture.
Obviously the larger a space is, the less proximity there is with others, thus social groups may organise around floors or apartments, rather than the whole community, yet still gather and bump into each other. Such spaces tend however to be neither even though they still offer some of the benefits.
Is there a difference with cohousing?
- community of neighbours
- long commitment with purchase
- independent dwelling units
- few shared facilities used by discretion
- community of housemates
- low commitment with rental
- smaller private rooms
- good common spaces integral to routines
These attributes are not exclusive as there are always exceptions, indeed microstudios can increasingly be found in coliving developments, and mixed models using ownership alongside rentals could emerge — all perhaps unhelpfully blurring definitions, yet increasing our options for better living.
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.
An example is that 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 (and is designed for this), thus encouraging interaction around it. The same for all other common spaces (workspaces, living rooms, even laundry).
Launching or running your own space?
In the spirit of openness and connection there's a community of operators ready to guide you in the right direction! Two associations organise regular meetings and knowledge shares: Co-Liv (perhaps more oriented towards residential and scale) and Coliving Hub (maybe a little more oriented towards destinational), both have their own online communities, but there's also some groups on Facebook: Coliving (users and operators; mostly homes), and Coliving Space Founders (mostly destinational), not to mention various country specific ones. You can also follow and join in discussions with thought leaders such as Carlos from Startup Embassy.
If your space's community is connected amongst itself and facilitated by you and your team, then why not announce yourself as a coliving community using our marque!
Styleguide for editors
The correct use of the term coliving is without a hyphen, the same as for coworking and endorsed by publishers. Gui Perdrix wrote about some reasoning, however whilst the English language generally hyphenates compound words during their early use, as time passes the hyphens are dropped and the concept thus transitions from being compound to discrete. Notably for the words coworking and coliving, their hyphenated use can imply different meanings across generations, thus use without a hyphen avoids ambiguity.
†This page is written and maintained by Jacob Jay for the Coliving Identity Working Group, have suggestions or feedback? firstname.lastname@example.org