Is Co-Living the future of housing, or an improvement of the past?

Research suggests there are far more co-living services than expected, but how do they differ in terms of services and amenities, and which ones will survive?

The real estate industry is still evolving and adapting to the efficiencies possible with ubiquitous high-speed internet. Most of the new co-living companies are trying to keep up with constantly improving technology that allows for more services, connectivity and targeted marketing.

For those of you who are not familiar with co-living, a simple description is that it is “residents who share living space in a same building (or apartment unit), mainly sharing communal spaces for cooking, socializing, (sometimes bathrooms) and other activities”. In its modern version, it’s a way of helping renters save money by sharing space, but most importantly sharing expenses with others, as well as receiving more amenities for sacrificing what we know as personal space.

This concept is not anything new but you could say it is an improved version of the past versions, co-living 1.0 as personified by communal housing in the USSR. During the Soviet era in Russia, the Bolsheviks expropriated the apartments of the upper classes and assigned one family per room in each building in order to deal with the housing shortage. These communities were called communal apartments or Kommunalka in Russian, and all the tenants living under the same roof had to share a kitchen and bathroom. Privacy didn’t exist in these soviet communes and they were not comfortable to say the least, typically there were long lines to use the bathroom and kitchen.

Today we are witnessing co-living 2.0 or beyond. What residents hated about communal apartments the most were shared bathrooms and kitchens. New co-living products offer small but personal sleeping area, bathrooms and kitchenettes combined with larger communal kitchens as an amenity when needed. Some personal space is provided, modest as it is, on a micro-living scale.  Typical personal units are often less than 13 square meters, for comparison the average studio size in the US is around 47 square meters.

Communal or shared amenities include large kitchens, fitness centres, entertainment centres, libraries, and a variety of other amenities from computer work stations to concierge services. What you share are the communal spaces and these vary depending on the vendor you choose. Furniture and kitchen appliances are often included for a fee. Most of the co-living services are not cheap, but they provide the ultimate in mobility. Here are a sample of some of the leading vendors:


The Collective aims to create your home, your workplace and your playground all in one place. Designing one of a kind shared spaces, including bars, restaurants, gyms, libraries, co-working spaces, laundry rooms and terraces. Their signature building is called the Old Oak and is located in west London, United Kingdom, the 11-storey building which comprises 550 bedrooms is the world’s largest co-living space. The Collective doesn’t market itself as apartments, it calls itself a “global living movement” with the mission of building and activating spaces that foster human connection and enable people to lead more fulfilling lives.


We Live is an offshoot of co-working behemoth WeWork, which has opened more than 200 co-working locations in 20 countries, and therefore made sense that they also expanded into co-living spaces with their We Live brand. Currently, We Live operates two buildings, one in New York and the other in Washington D.C., both offer leases for as little as one month and as long as a year, but only the New York location offers nightly stays. We Live rents studio apartments for individuals and all the way up to four-bedroom apartments, each apartment has at least one bathroom and they include a refrigerator, kitchen appliances, hangers, flat screen TV and ceiling-mounted speakers.


Node is a global co-living company that creates urban rental apartment communities in creative capital cities around the world. Node’s “curated co-living” concept delivers compact, efficiently designed apartments which have their own private kitchen and living areas. Currently, there are Node buildings located in Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Dublin, London, Manchester and coming soon to Kitchener and Seattle.


Roam is a co-living service that tailors to the digital nomad community that live location independent lives, selling the dream of working from an exotic location. Currently Roam has set up co-living and co-working hubs in San Francisco, Miami, Tokyo and Bali.


Quarters mission is simple: Redefine the way people choose to live, work and play by providing unique shared environments. Each of the spaces offered by Quarters features beautifully designed apartments with fully equipped kitchens, co-working spaces, areas to relax and meet other members of the Quarter’s community. Originally from Berlin, Germany, you can find Quarters in the U.S. in Chicago, New York, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia as well as several locations across Europe.


Dream House operates a branded network of shared and full-service apartments designed to offer all-inclusive living at an affordable price. They provide professionally designed accommodations and working spaces in walkable locations across the US with features such as connected community, modern furnishings, Wi-Fi and the latest in streaming entertainment content and 24-hour maintenance and customer service support.


Colonies is a French co-living start-up based in Paris, France. They offer beautifully furnished, fully equipped private studios and shared spaces. All services are included with the monthly rent like weekly housekeeping, all utilities, high-speed Wi-Fi, basic supplies, and most importantly they offer flexible and convenient leases.

There are endless more companies offering co-living services that are equally good in quality and service as the ones found on this blog, they mostly differ in the spaces you share with others, the room sizes and in the amenities that they offer. What has yet to emerge from the pack is the overall winner that becomes the standard model for all other co-living services and becomes the “Marriot” of co-living companies.


Top image: Getty Images – svetikd

About Author

Arthur Gonzalez Jr is an Asset Manager in Baja California, Mexico. Currently studying the Master of Science in Real Estate candidate at the University of San Diego School of Business.

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