Liverpool lays down law on co-living
The city council has said that co-living developments must adhere to residential policies set out in its newly adopted local plan, including minimum space standards.
Liverpool City Council signed off a planning advice note last week aimed at informing developers of the authority’s stance on co-living when it comes to determining planning applications.
The idea behind the advice note is to ensure the delivery of high-quality residential development in the city, the council said.
Co-living is a relatively new product within the housing market. Accommodation typically comprises a private en-suite bedroom and shared communal spaces and is aimed at a younger demographic, providing a short-term stepping stone between student housing and the private rented sector.
In planning terms, co-living is designated as sui generis, which means it does not fall within a particular use class. This can present difficulties for developers in their attempts to convince planning authorities of the viability and suitability of the product.
Some developers have called for co-living to be given its own use class in order to better define the product and give local authorities greater confidence in the business model of the burgeoning sub-sector.
Liverpool City Council has decided against this, instead opting to view co-living in the same way as private rented apartments. The authority says this is to “ensure quality residential accommodation for future occupants”.
A report to the city council’s cabinet said that “because co-living is sui-generis, developers have suggested that they do not need to align with planning policy requirements in respect of housing”.
However, Liverpool believes that, as co-living is a type of housing, proposals should comply with the relevant housing policies in the local plan.
The planning advice note on co-living in the city sets out that developments should:
- Have more two-bedroom apartments then one-bedroom apartments
- Adhere to nationally described minimum space standards of between 398 sq ft and 753 sq ft
- Offer leases no shorter than six months
- Be flexible, with the ability to be converted into traditional accommodation easily.
Whether the co-living product currently being proposed by developers will be able to viably stick to these rules remains unclear.
In January, the city council rejected Crosslane Group’s plans to redevelop the former Bogans Carpet site on New Bird Street in the Baltic Triangle into a 370-unit co-living scheme.
Councillors said the number of single-occupancy units was too high and that 192 of the apartments did not comply with nationally described space standards.
However, a planning statement submitted alongside Crosslane’s application said co-living bedrooms are “not designed to function as self-contained homes”, due to differences in layout and tenancy, and therefore minimum space standards “are not applicable to the scheme”.
While co-living has not yet taken off in Liverpool, in Manchester there are two major schemes under construction.
Downing’s 2,224-bedroom scheme on First Street is progressing having been approved in 2020, while Vita Group is delivering 1,676 bed-spaces across two towers at Allied London’s St John’s district under its Union Living brand.
The Vita scheme is institutionally backed, demonstrating confidence in demand for the product in Manchester.
When contacted by Place North West, Vita Group welcomed Liverpool’s stance on co-living.
“It’s exciting to see local authorities such as Liverpool City Council taking a keen interest in co-living and providing detailed guidance on how they see it working,” said Said James Rooke, head of planning for Vita Group.
“The clear guidance surrounding space standards align with our vision and design and is something that we welcome. Our vision for Union is that it brings the lifeblood of the city together. In taking a holistic approach to people, place and service, we’re confident that co-living can help to mobilise cities, supporting economic growth both short and long-term.”