The concept of co-living is gaining momentum in Manchester, with a number of developers setting their sights on large co-living developments, but what is the winning formula, asks Colin Shenton of Oppidan Life.
Co-living provides an opportunity to set a new course in the residential property market, moving us on from build-to-rent schemes that have dipped their toe in the water of community living. To put the consumer first, true co-living must deliver on several fronts with one end goal: a community approach to winning hearts and minds.
What is meant by community?
In the simplest form, a community is a social unit with commonalities such as interests and values, who share a sense of place. All residential property delivers on the latter to some degree but often misses the mark on the former.
In property terms, community isn’t a new concept. However, the way developers have attempted to deliver it has often fallen short of its true meaning. Providing common areas such as a co-working space, gym, cinema or a roof terrace offers impressive amenities where people may cross paths, but it does not lead to building connections.
How can residential property deliver community?
To instil community into not just an individual space but an entire building starts with exceptional architecture. The building must be designed in a way to contribute towards interaction. In a co-living building, tenants have their own private studios, their sanctuary to retreat to, and wider communal living spaces. Through considered architecture, these shared spaces are placed in high footfall areas to allow for people to pass through them and meet along the way.
In a co-living building, think of the spaces on offer in terms of the pyjama principle: how far would you be prepared to venture from your studio? Into the communal kitchen and living room, yes. Into a lift to a roof terrace for a coffee, or down to ground level to meet a friend, no. Therefore, the communal spaces should reflect this ‘at home’ feel at the studio-living level. If the shared spaces are designed to feel like an extension of the private studios, cosy and comfortable, not just functional, with high specification soft furnishings and well-thought-out room layouts, people will be more likely to make themselves at home with one another.
Organically encouraging engagement within the building helps to build a sense of community. By offering opportunities for tenants to find common ground through their interests, co-living has the potential to create lasting relationships. This is where all-inclusive events come in: tenants don’t just receive a room to rent with some wider spaces to socialise in, they receive a ready-made lifestyle to tap into within the city. All they need to do is turn-up; the opportunity to connect is theirs to make their own.
The ‘co’ in co-living
Of course the ‘co’ in co-living originates from community living. So, in a large-scale building, with 40 floors and 1,000 studios, how can community thrive? It’s unrealistic to expect 1,000 people to meet and form connections just because they live in the same building, as is the expectation for everyone that lives there to share interests and values.
The answer isn’t to look at a building as a whole to provide community, but to create micro-communities within it. By treating each floor as a means to bring people together with common interests, the building starts to flourish. That doesn’t mean to say that the wider building can’t support these micro-communities – it certainly can, through other shared amenities – however, connection is unlikely to be made in these spaces. Tenants will bring their relationships to these broader spaces either from the internal friendships they’ve forged or by bringing external friends and family into them.
Only when we start thinking of co-living in terms of putting the consumer first, will it become a winning sub-sector within the overall residential property mix.