CoLiving & Shared Housing Isn’t Just for Urban Millennial Bros

Hunter Walk
May 19, 2018 · 4 min read

“Luke opened the shared fridge and, since it was after 4pm, chugged his Kombucha/Soylent Keto shake. ‘I go no-solids after 3pm’ he said, something the rugged 23 year old couldn’t have imagined thinking just six months ago, before joining this shared residential collective in SF’s SOMA. ‘I pay $650 a month for a closet but the real value is being among this crew, we’ve even nicknamed ourselves the ‘Code & Hodl Crew.’ Luke flashed a goofy gang sign, where his fingers kinda made the shape of a B-T-C, the abbreviation for bitcoin.”

THAT’S the way most stories about coliving sound today and whether or not such prose accurately represents the current state of the market, it certainly won’t be the future. My belief is that we’re going to continue seeing movement towards various coliving/shared housing arrangements, among a broad swarth of socioeconomic, demographic and geographic cohorts.

[Plug: if you’re working on ideas here — especially those not aimed at urban white young men in the tech industry — I’m interested in talking with you about early funding — hunter at homebrew.co]

Here’s a few disparate reasons why I’m a believer in the trend:

Community and Care — People are living longer lives and want to age in place, with community and care brought to them versus the centralized industrial assisted living model. Here are two examples of this trend among the middle class elderly in Californiaand Massachusetts. Even outside of those with special needs, those with specific lifestyle choices — religious, health and wellness, ethnic — will have opportunity to live in tribes for ease, identity and belonging in an increasingly fractured and noisy world. Coliving is the new neighborhood.

Urban Density and Desirability — Urban centers are desirable again, for reasons that are pretty durable. Unfortunately in many cities, years of NIMBYism combined with general regulatory complexity and limited residential footprints result in increasing rents and home prices. Many municipalities and their occupants are going to realize that we just won’t be able to construct enough affordable housing, if “housing” means 1980s ideals of multiple bedroom home and apartments of 1,000 sq ft and up. So private bedrooms with shared common spaces, but close to the places we work and play, are going to create attractive versions of the modern boarding house/dorm. Instead of spending 50% of income on rent, or needing to endure hours of commute from city outskirts, millions of people will prefer a different tradeoff.

Economic Forces Including Combination of Wage Stagnation and Generational Real Estate Transfer — I’m not an economist. Phew, now that we can be honest with each other, this is more of a feel than any real macro analysis. BUT, seems to me that continued wage stagnation, plus decreased birth rates, plus increase in life expectancy, plus baby boomers either (a) liquidating the family residence to cover living expenses or (b) handing them down to a generation of cash poor, but now property rich, heirs, means that there’s going to be a lot of property in motion. Maybe one family homes become two family homes as owners seek to split costs or create supplementary rental income from their primary residence. Maybe residential real estate will no longer be an appreciating asset as millennials invest in other more liquid, higher volatility areas (private company equity, crypto). I don’t know which of these will continue or what the combinatorial effect looks like, but feels like there’s *something* here that smart entrepreneurs can figure out.

Access Not Ownership — Recent generations have shown less attachment to ownership and more interest in access. Experiences and lifestyles, not things. Mobility for personal and professional reasons will be prized above residence. A minority of people — especially professional freelancers — will go full subscription-based living where their monthly “rent” isn’t tied to a single address but nights of occupancy across networks of hotels or other short-term rentals. We see the basis for this in Pillow, one of our current investments.

Crunchbase News did a nice writeup of shared housing startups but from where I sit this is still an early and huge market. If you’re working on a startup in this area or have ideas that are different than mine, let me know — hunter at homebrew.co. We’re especially interested in approaches which don’t require the startup to take on leases or property ownership (although open to hearing insightful models there too).

Hunter Walk

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