Is Co-Living the Housing Solution for the 2020s?

Quarters, Chicago
By Yvonne Milosevic

Roommates are a fact of life for a majority of early-career professionals, especially if the current housing market has decimated your options for affordable solo digs. But do you really want to go through the hassle of hunting for your next roomie on Craigslist? Thankfully, there’s another way to go about it. And, it includes all the pluses of a cool housemate with none of the baggage. We’re talking about co-living, the modern housing solution you didn’t know you needed.

In a nutshell, co-living spaces offer residents a swank furnished private bedroom and bath and shared common areas for socializing. The emphasis is on community while eliminating the typical flashpoints of the roommate experience. The San Francisco Chronicle pins the rise of co-living on several trends, including our newfound comfort with strangers forged by the likes of Airbnb and Uber, as well as an increased interest in experiences over possessions.

Already popular in Asia and parts of Europe, the co-living market stateside has skyrocketed over the past few years through companies such as Ollie, WeLive, Common, and Quarters. A leading European co-living developer, Quarters aims to become the largest co-living operator in the US by 2022. To do it, they plan to invest $300 million in new projects over the next three years, adding 1,300 new units in major cities across the country.

So, is co-living right for you? See if these four reasons convince you to take the plunge.

You get more bang for your buck.

All this may sound like dorm life 2.0. But when buying or even renting a great place in a prime neighborhood has become impossible for most, snagging a private room in a luxury building is one way to get the most value for your money.

Quarters Chicago

These well-appointed properties provide residents with chic, furnished rooms and upscale lounge areas. You’re also likely to find amenities such as fitness centers, chef kitchens, rooftop patios, parking, and smart home technology. You pay one flat monthly fee, which covers rent, utilities, WiFi and cable, in-unit cleaning services, laundry, and more. Quarters says its bedroom units go for 10-20 percent less than studios with similar amenities in the same areas. Common, meanwhile, says its rooms are 30 percent less.

You’re moving to a new, unfamiliar area.

Moving to a new city or country can be daunting. You want to get the lay of the land, but you don’t have time to research different neighborhoods. Maybe you need somewhere to hang your hat while you figure it all out.

“Loneliness is a huge problem for young professionals,” Quarters founder & CEO Gunther Schmidt told Recode. “Imagine moving to a new city to start a new job, and you don’t know anyone. Co-living opens you up to an instant community and connections. We have community events for our members to socialize, have fun, and develop genuine relationships.”

You want flexibility.

Are you a nomad who wants to experience life in a variety of cities? Maybe your career involves projects that take you to new locations on the regular. Whatever the reason, the flexibility of co-living leases makes this option ideal for the commitment-averse. Typically, terms can be as short as three or six months. At WeLive Wall Street, the flexibility is even greater. You can stay for a single night to check it out, or up to 30 days. After that, lease length goes from one month up to a year.

You crave a sense of connection.

This is, hands-down, the most important reason for choosing a co-living environment. Creating community is co-living’s raison d’être.  Miguel McKelvey, the co-founder of WeWork, thinks WeLive could provide the physical context for community building that urban living desperately lacks.

“Religion is no longer a connection point for most people,” McKelvey told GQ in 2018. “Our communities were built on coming together in physical locations once a week or twice a week. These institutions have dissipated.” WeLive has stepped in to fill that void.

“It was always thought of, ‘How can we support this person who wants to live more collectively, live lighter — who wants to have less stuff, who wants to pursue their passion, pursue a life of meaning, rather than looking for just material success?'” McKelvey shared in Business Insider.

Experience co-living IRL

The best way to decide whether co-living is right for you is to visit in person. Explore the space and consider the amenities. Chat up current residents and find out how they like the property. Be honest with yourself about your expectations. If you do decide to give co-living a try, having that short-term lease option will allow you to reassess after a few months. By that time you may have already made so many new friends, you couldn’t imagine living any other way.