🏡 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. Every coliving space has its own character, yet shares the fundamental principles and benefits of:
⭐️ facilitating exchanges and comfortable proximity amongst us
⭐️ improving quality of life with better facilities collectively
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 generally offered as a single inclusive price, furnished, with linens and housekeeping, and without a long-term contract so it's convenient to not only move in, but also move on.
The use of coliving spaces goes beyond being a mere house, welcoming us as a home, to include work, learning, wellbeing and impact. 🤩
But! Like anything, just because a space identifies itself as coliving—doesn't mean it is. In true communities the little details and member activity make the distinction obvious.
purpose ⬄ proximity ⬄ collectivity ⬄ convenience
Coliving can be considered as being any combination of:
- shared purpose amongst members/residents together within a space
- an offering combining community facilitation and collective facilities
- a format of better common spaces with smaller private bedrooms/units
You'll find coliving spaces tend to be one of the following:
- coliving homes and complexes
Most often houses within metros and commuter belts, providing typically 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 due as members embed within the community. Ideal with atypical properties and avoids wasted space from division into apartments.
- coliving workations and retreats
Generally in holiday and escape destinations, emphasising community alongside activities and location. Favoured by digital nomads, and city dwellers escaping for a few weeks or months. Also known as destinational coliving, and sometimes functioning as popup spaces or with programmes.
Rates are higher corresponding fluctuating occupancy, yet capacity is achievable with well-operated locations and a strong community. Investment into facilities need not be significant as can draw on hospitality and facilitation. A resilient model as can be adapted for long stays.
- coliving hubs
Combining aspects of both homes and workations, multiplying collaboration and camaraderie by opening up some facilities to the public or external community groups, such as through an open coworking or events space. A live+work format is also known as blended coliving although this may be residents-only, in contrast to a hub.
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.
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.†
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. Members choose to join a compatible living community — not just because a space is convenient.
A landlord advertising a property as coliving but unable to describe how they facilitate interaction or whom their members are, most certainly is not housing a community. 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 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.
⭐️We encourage the use of the coliving community label to identify properties having purposeful connections amongst their members, and not simply using a coliving layout.
You can put a coliving community to the test simply by asking the members «why are you now here?» If most only answer because it's nice/in budget/well located and not because they were looking for (and found!) like-minded people to share with, then it is safe to say they are not sharing any purpose together and the community may be broken. Yet those who initially join without purpose, may find it quite soon from others!
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), but rarely through untargetted adverts.
- lifestyle business
The hands-on founders enjoy sharing the journey, as they are often using the space themselves, often involving volunteers, yet operate 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 on rental. 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.
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.
Where a monthly rental fee also provides 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.
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.
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).
What's a purposeful or intentional space?
All coliving communities bring their members together. Some spaces make extra effort to align members and enact living together…
- ☮️ with intention, members are attracted to and follow closely related approaches to life based around what we seek to do or believe
- ⚛️ with purpose a commonality of why we want to share and participate together is prevalent, amongst diverse approaches to life
We most often see a why simply being the wish to avoid isolation, loosely sharing experiences amongst independent lifestyles, contrasting 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.
Launching 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 more groups on Facebook: Coliving (users and operators; mostly homes), and Coliving Space Founders (mostly destinational), not to mention various country specific ones.
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 write more 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 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 avoids ambiguity.
†This page is written and maintained by Jacob Jay for the Coliving Identity Working Group, have suggestions or feedback? email@example.com