Coliving and social value: sharing space, sharing purpose

Coliving (or co-living) is rapidly gaining traction as a way of living and as a real estate asset class (e.g. CBRE, 2020). This trend is worth noting particularly for those who are interested in creating social value, ESG and impact investing.


What is coliving?

Collective living is nothing new. However, the emerging concept of coliving is slightly more specific. According to Conscious Coliving, it is characterised by a few more elements including emphasis on community building and use of technology. It might be described as a form of “Housing As A Service.”


Social value creation in coliving

Coliving is a concept based on the idea of sharing – space, lifestyle and purpose.


Sharing space benefits nature and our environment by enabling more efficient use of limited resources including land and utilities. It can also help address some social issues, such as housing affordability and loneliness, both of which are increasingly of concern in Europe and other parts of the world (e.g. IMF, Community Survey). People in various circumstances could benefit from this new form of living, including, for example, those relocating due to a fixed-term contract and single parents, as well as students and young professionals.


Furthermore, coliving schemes can drive social value creation, with residents proactively contributing to community cohesion and enhancing community wealth. For instance, some of the shared facilities may be opened to the wider community, serving as a community hub. Programmed activities may be designed to share knowledge and skills with school children. Sharing a social purpose can reinforce a sense of community and ownership amongst scheme’s residents.


As an emerging concept, all players - from investors and developers to designers and operators – are compelled to collaborate and agree on fundamentals. Such vertical integration offers greater potential to develop schemes based on the needs and values of residents (or ‘customers’), community and society rather than some industry standard.


Wider trends in the living sector

Coliving may not be for everyone and certainly not the only solution to creating social value. For example, UN17 Village* in Copenhagen aims to address all 17 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It offers a wide range of housing types to accommodate various housing needs, which would help residents to stay in the community when circumstances change. Demain Montréal* in Canada is designed to put circular economy into action with a particular focus on food. It has zero-waste grocery stores and educational facilities for circular economy on site.


Nonetheless, coliving has a unique role to play within the living sector. As Gui Perdrix, one of the most prominent advocator of coliving, says, “it is a movement that has the potential to change people’s lives for the better, to give its residents a sense of belonging, to offer affordable housing, and to push individuals to new heights of personal and professional growth.”

*Both cases have been introduced in more detail in the ULI’s social value report.