‘Coliving’ rises as an alternative to the classic rental, where more than a roof is shared
Marta L. is a freelance audiovisual editor. A few years ago she was offered a position to take part in an important television project. A great opportunity that, however, had one big handicap: it was mandatory to move to Madrid for three months to work from there. The challenge was worth it, but when looking for a temporary rental that wouldn’t cost her her full salary, with minimal conditions of habitability, the professional challenge was overshadowed by the logistical ordeal. After many stressful days she found a solution, but – looking back now she says – “it was not the best option and it was too expensive.”
This is just one example of the wide range of new accommodation needs that have arisen in the changing work environment and to which the traditional rental market does not always respond. Something that is especially noticeable in large cities, with unbridled prices for years, where in addition, the idea of becoming independent for a younger generation who are new to the labor market seems impossible. In response to this reality and to the new work demands, the so-called ‘coliving‘ has emerged, an alternative that reinvents the concept of a university residence, going beyond the mere fact of sharing a roof.
‘Coliving’ soundslike ‘co-working’. Indeed, they go hand in hand. The Anglicism that we have adopted to explain several concepts in a single word (like so many others) speaks of a way of life in which more than a flat and service expenses are shared: experiences, professional advice, leisure time, and even projects are shared. Like ‘co-working‘ , this trend was born in Silicon Valley, a mecca of entrepreneurship, where multitudes of young professionals arrive with a desire to generate connections that help them in their personal and professional growth, but with housing options well out of reach. You could say that it’s a kind of university residence for workers. However, the entrepreneurs who have imported this model to Spain point out that it goes further.
Besides not accepting students, the only thing it would have in common with a residence is the fact that they share a building. “The facilities, activities, and services that we offer are far from those that can be found in a student residence“, explains Marta Torres, head of marketing at Urban Campus, one of the companies that have successfully implemented the model in our country. The ‘colivings’ of the aforementioned company offer accommodation of this type in Spain (120), and are located in central or emerging areas of capital cities, well connected by public transport and with nearby shopping and leisure areas.
Fighting isolation: Those who choose this type of accommodation seek, in addition to a place to live, a space where they can find people who have similar interests and that enable them to expand their employment opportunities. Those that benefit most from this solution are professionals who travel to large cities because of job requirements.
All-inclusive: They offer accommodation starting from 700 euros with everything included. The contracts are flexible, with a minimum one month stay, and they offer the convenience and comfort of being able to forget about contracting and paying for electricity, water, Wi-Fi, TV platforms, maintenance, etc. Furniture and kitchenware are also included.
Pricing: In cities like Madrid, Malaga, Bilbao, Valencia, Seville, the housing problem is real. Coliving is an intermediate solution between sharing a room in an old apartment with a shared kitchen and living room (cheaper) and renting a solo apartment in a well-located neighborhood with common areas (more expensive).
Shared spaces: The community is made up of a variety of different profiles, and while sharing a profession is not required, Urban Campus looks for people who are interested in working together, collaborating, and learning from one another. Those who look to participate and organize activities, (yoga classes, dinners, workshops, brainstorming sessions) and take advantage of the plethora of shared spaces (coworking space, cinema room, dining areas).
Synergies: Urban Campus acts as a melting pot, and community is a catalyst. Ideas arise and start-ups are created. In the case of Urban Campus, its tenants have created a video speed dating application and a hydroponic garden that has been installed in the common area where residents plan to plant fresh fruits and vegetables for the entire community.
With the complete rehabilitation of old buildings, the spaces are rethought to offer private spaces (with shared or private kitchen) and spacious and attractively designed common areas that promote connection. From coworking spaces to areas where you can practice yoga. The up to 8,000 square meters that an Urban Campus building offers, go a long way.
The promoters of this idea believe that most of the rental homes currently offered in the market were designed 70 years ago and do not fit the reality of our generation. Neither physically (unnecessarily large TV rooms and no fitness areas), contractually (rigid and lengthy contracts, etc.), or financially.
Flexibility is another one of the great guarantees of ‘coliving’. With a fully digitalized booking platform and online management, you can rent a room in these residential complexes starting from just one month. However, “on average, our residents stay with us for 11 months“, points out Marta Torres. And rent includes everything, access to the common areas, all services and utilities – even internet and Netflix – in ‘coliving’ there’s no sign up hassle. The units are fully furnished and fully equipped.
In this regard, everything you need to embark on a new journey and leave home can fit comfortably into a couple of suitcases. Of course, it would still be more expensive than paying for a room in a traditional shared apartment with strangers. In the case of Urban Campus, around 700 euros. However, an all inclusive flexible offer, the space, and community clearly differentiate this alternative style of living that many are embracing today.
In addition to the merely practical factor, ‘coliving’ has another social facet: that of creating links through what they call ‘social architecture’. “The transformation of buildings aims to promote connection between people, the creation of an authentic community,” the aforementioned company explains. Thus, the dreaded loneliness faced by many citizens who land in a big city without any social network is combatted with a network of individuals eager to help one another grow.
The community is invested in the personal and professional development of its residents, sharing concerns, and supporting one another. Isolation bears little fruit. During confinement, the tenants of Urban Campus created five entrepreneurship projects.
Who lives in these residential complexes?
The profile of users who are interested in this way of life are young professionals (40% foreigners and 60% nationals) aged 27 to 40, who want privacy, but also seek integration into a community of people with similar interests or concerns, where they can expand their network of contacts. “Some of them are entrepreneurs or expatriates whose profiles do not meet the criteria required by a classic real estate offer, others seek synergies when launching their ‘start-up’, others share a passion for sports or food”, explains Urban Campus. What do all they have in common? A shared vision of community created by support and growth.
This model is more established in capitals such as Madrid and Barcelona, but there are also similar projects (services vary) in the Canary Islands, Andalusia or the Balearic Islands