Co-living: Dispelling the myths

Colin Shenton

Co-living is gaining momentum in the residential property sector, writes Colin Shenton of Oppidan Life

If you haven’t already heard of co-living you are sure to over the coming months, as developers set their sights on Manchester and Salford.

While the market seeks to define what co-living is and how it differs from BTR, HMOs and student accommodation, as a sector of its own, co-living has been shrouded by a number of myths. So, it’s time to separate facts from the fiction in this up-and-coming exciting sector.

1. It’s glorified flat-sharing…
Co-living is absolutely not flat sharing, nor is it simply a step up from student accommodation.

It goes far beyond this. Flat shares are usually two or three people, HMOs and PBSA four to six in a cluster. The Oppidan Life definition of co-living is small communities of 12 to 20 people, each person with a self-contained apartment, no sharing of kitchens or bathrooms, each large enough to include a workspace and then, on top, the amenity spaces in which community is fostered.

It’s about providing all the resources to facilitate interaction without forcing it. One of these resources is size – two people is too few, 2,000 is too many.

Make it relatable. Let people make their community in their own image – contribute and be rewarded, as much or as little as you want, it’s all about options.

2. It only appeals to Gen-Z…
Of course co-living has a strong appeal to the Generation Z demographic, however, to suggest that this is the limit of its appeal is also a myth.

First-hand experience, gained in Manchester’s only operational co-living building, Oppidan Life, has proven that it has a very broad attraction. We’ve seen tenants as young as 18 but have also welcomed a 79-year-young retired gentlemen, and almost every age in-between.

Co-living brings people to cities for many reasons – career moves, relationships, study or simply just city life with a ready-made lifestyle.

These things happen at any age so age shouldn’t be a barrier to new experiences. Co-living is for people with a common outlook on life and is not based on age, affluence, education, race, religion or anything else.

3. Co-living is an untested sector…
Co-living is an import from the wider world where it has been gaining traction across Europe, the US and India for many years.

The Collective have been operating large co-living schemes in London since 2010 with great success.

Dublin has more than 3,000 co-living homes.

Co-living has, in fact, been in Manchester since 2019. The Oppidan Life building has been full ever since and there’s a waiting list.

Salford and Manchester have over 5,000 units in the pipeline worth over £1bn, that’s a bit more than a test.

4. Short term-let only…
No. Flexibility is a key characteristic so lettings from two weeks to five years, changing apartments, paying weekly, monthly, quarterly, are all available.

Longer than a hotel stay, shorter than a standard six month AST, much cheaper than a serviced apartment, a five year residency, whatever works for you.

The model should charge less the longer you stay. We want people to contribute to the community and make it their home, so the longer they stay the better. There should be no limits to the length of a tenancy agreement, many of our tenants have stayed 18 months or more, exceeding average BTR tenancy periods.

Co-living allows people to dip their toe in without long commitments, meaning they’re more likely to give it a try.

More often than not, they enjoy the community they are part of, have access to a ready-made lifestyle in the city and benefit from paying one single bill with everything included – and then they extend their tenancy.

5. Niche/novelty…
There’s nothing niche in today’s terms about going the extra mile with customer service and experience, in fact, the consumer expects it and will be left disappointed without it.

Co-living is where residential and hospitality merge – something started by BTR but perfected by co-living.

Demand for service is never going away so it’s not a niche, it’s the new norm.

Co-living is evolving at a rate of knots, leaving it open to interpretation. For it to evolve it must be given the recognition it deserves a classification of its own to ensure it can be regulated.

This will help both the industry and consumer to understand it, leaving the myths behind for good.