Adult Co-Living Has Been Trending, but Could COVID-19 End It?

Aerial view of co-living space showing balconies in the late afternoon
Daniel DiNuzzo

Skyrocketing rent prices in big cities are driving some millennials out, and forcing others to turn to unusual living arrangements. In the past few years, adult communal living has been trending upward in places like Los Angeles, New York, and Boston.

These facilities look like a hybrid between college dorms and apartment complexes and offer cheaper housing for people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. Although co-living has gotten more popular lately, the emergence of coronavirus is threatening to destroy the trend. So how did we get here, and what comes next?

The Co-Living Trend

If you’re near a big city, odds are there are co-living facilities near you. For instance, Common offers housing in eight major cities, and Quarters has 13 – including international locations. Often, coliving companies offer flexible, short-term, relatively cheap contracts for people looking for more affordable accommodations.

Rooms in co-living spaces are usually smaller than typical apartment bedrooms, and spaces like kitchens and balconies are shared by everyone in the community. The dynamic is perfect for younger, social people who don’t want to pay exorbitant city housing prices.

Roughly one-third of adults live with someone else, be it a parent or friend, largely to save some cash. Often these situations can be constraining and difficult, however. While a co-living arrangement may offer less personal space, it can offer a level of freedom that typical living spaces cannot.

In cities like Boston, people praised co-living plans as a cure to rising rents and declining social engagement. In fact, a 14-story co-living building is under construction in Boston now, set to open in 2021. However, the future of co-living may not be as robust as people assumed in the past. The coronavirus pandemic has raised questions about the safety of co-living, and many people are understandably hesitant to share common spaces with strangers.

Co-Living Amid Coronavirus

As a result of the pandemic, many communal living companies are offering discounts and deals to encourage people to move in. Common, for instance, has discounted prices, deposit-free rentals, and special deals for students and health care workers. Some co-living facilities are still bringing in new tenants, but the general interest in communal living slipped during the early stages of the pandemic.

As America begins to reopen, however, companies are seeing interest in co-living surge again. Communal living fosters trust and accountability, so ideally everyone living together acts in the best interest of everyone else.

The Bottom Line

Before the coronavirus, some experts thought that communal living could be a major step in creating affordable housing. It remains to be seen if co-living will reach that level, but it’s encouraging to see the industry getting a boost after struggling through March and April.

Ultimately, safety within co-living facilities is up to the people living there. If people are compassionate and understanding, a communal living building presents no more threat than a standard apartment complex but can help ease some of the pain of social isolation.

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