What Is Co-Living?
Defining A Global Movement
For many, the word co-living conjures up images of roomates, human interaction and communal life. In reality, co-living as a concept means many things to many different people, and that’s why we at the Lab want to promote a crowdsourced definition of co-living to bolster our unity as a global movement.
If you’d like to weigh in and send us your definition of co-living, please click here and fill out this short form.
At the Lab, we believe a co-living space is “any shared living space that improves quality-of-life for its residents.” The communal nature of this housing arrangement involves pooling resources and living in close proximity, and that inherently unlocks a wide variety of benefits for its residents, including comfort, affordability and a greater sense of social belonging. Co-living isn’t just a housing model — it’s an effective solution for a growing demographic that’s worth considering.
Co-living and the wider sharing economy are manifestations of the cultural shifts that are underway. Millennials, the largest consumer demographic today, has a different ethos when it comes to consumerism, as they believe in “access not ownership”.Today, people value experiences over material possessions and conspicuous consumption, and this is giving way to the rise of formalized sharing models in a wide variety of sectors, including housing.
While we’ve witnessed the disruption of many other parts of our economy in a digital age, housing is notably behind the times. Co-living is one manifestation of the evolution of these consumer trends toward the sharing economy.
While co-living may be widely seen as new, it’s quite the opposite in some ways. Instead, we see co-living as the natural extension of our shared human history as a social species. Since the dawn of civilization, humans have lived in close-knit communities for countless reasons, including survival, efficiency and affiliation. Today, the co-living movement seeks to formalize a concept that has been around for millennia.
The human need for community and affiliation remains as important as ever. Because of industrialization, we have individualized our housing options. Unfortunately, we have forgotten about what it was to live in a neighborhood, a village, a street where people know you by your name and look after each other.
That’s why we believe co-living may provide some of the answers for the problems we face in a complex world where housing and social belonging are in short supply.
Integral to the financial and social sustainability of this housing typology are co-living operators. Whether it’s an organization or a person, co-living operators are involved in the management of these shared living areas.
The lab recently published, Who’s Who in Co-Living, the world’s first directory of co-living operators. Among the listings were the high-profile operators who are setting the trends in the co-living sector including The Collective, Ollie, Urban Campus and Roam.
The Lab exists to promote the diffusion of co-living by providing a professional hub for co-living operators. They are an essential partner in the quest to disrupt housing, a sector that has not evolved with the times. We believe the future of co-living is largely tied to the success of co-living operators, including entrepreneurs, cooperatives, community associations and other actors in the sector.
We believe that the co-living movement doesn’t exist in a vacuum, as the sector is producing spillover effects that are directly impacting communities and the wider global economy. Co-living operators are establishing themselves as essential community partners, as the majority of brands share their amenities with the surrounding neighborhood. There are countless examples that follow the open-source model of Kalkbreite Guesthouse, which blends seamlessly into the wider community located in the heart of Zurich, Switzerland.
Co-living operators are on the cutting edge of tomorrow’s digital-first economy. There is a growing number of co-living spaces accepting Bitcoin, such as Tribe and The Collective as cryptocurrency gains legitimacy as a financial instrument. There are also many co-living spaces catering to entrepreneurs in the thriving startup ecosystem, such as Zoku, Outsite, and TheCamp, serving as ground zero for creating the new economy.
Co-living is building its future in the crossroads of the new economy that seeks to unbundle everything including housing. We need new paradigms that reflect our new way of life, and that means catering to a growing demographic of people who eschew the traditional real estate model. We believe the diversification of options in the real estate marketplace helps improve economic and environmental sustainability and gives people a wider array of choices as consumers.
The world is changing, and co-living operators are a big part of that change. That’s why we encourage co-living operators to join our thriving global community as we lay the foundation for the future of co-living. If you’re interested in being a part of the movement, the Lab is a great place to start. We are a think-and-do-tank dedicated to enabling the spread of the co-living phenomenon worldwide. Our member community serves developers, operators, designers, researchers, entrepreneurs, investors, urban planners, policymakers, experts and enthusiasts.
We connect to strengthen the movement. We share resources and opportunities to grow the community. We collaborate to make co-living spaces that work. Join our movement at co-liv-lab.mn.co