Rupert Goddard talks co-living: fresh thinking for collective city living with EG

9th October 2018

With its focus on experiences over possessions, co-living brings the importance of community back to the city with a series of interior settings designed to encourage social interaction.

Co-living is part of a wider trend of “lifestyle disruption” that has seen a return to the importance of place and identity over manufactured brand, the traditional high street subverted, the rise of co-working and chain restaurants deserted in favour of informal and independent dining.

In part driven by the digital revolution and also a reaction to it, co-living in its most innovative forms should be about being truly user-focused, providing spaces that allow for constant change and adaptation to respond to resident’s needs.

Ownership/service model

The Collective, early innovators in the co-living market, define it as a ownership/service model split for the property market, in the same way that Netflix and Uber have revolutionised their sectors. Initially designed around the needs of global digital nomads, co-living developers are seeing a high uptake from traditional office workers, attracted by lower rents and a wider range of communal activities.

Their scheme at Old Oak Common in North West London has 546 units and is currently the largest co-living space in the world. Rents are all-inclusive, covering bills, wifi and access to a wide range of facilities including a restaurant, co-working spaces, a roof terrace, games room, gardens, gym, library, cinema and spa. The overlap with the growing co-working market is attractive to digital nomads who blur the line between living and working space.

The Collective invests heavily in curated experiences that support the community, like yoga classes, skill sharing and so on, believing that it is this sense of belonging that encourages people to stay for longer.

"Co-living’s equation is “more choice, less space” – your rooms may be more compact but this enables access to significantly more communal space than traditional PRS provides, and at a lower price point."

This community is online and physical, integrated in a way that is completely natural to their millennial market. Flexible contracts, a high quality service offer and none of the stresses of traditional renting all challenge to the traditional rental model.

Looking further afield, developers such as Norn aim to foster the art of conversation in a setting that is more akin to a boutique hotel than build to rent. Norn searches out renovation projects that are typical of the city in which they are located, reflecting the notion that property “brand” is becoming ever more sophisticated – place and individuality again.

Co-living achieves this with an equation of “more choice, less space” – your rooms may be more compact but this enables access to significantly more communal space than traditional PRS provides, and at a lower price point.


In a fast-developing city centre like Manchester, co-living’s attractiveness is rooted in its comparative affordability and the choice and resilience it offers to the market as a whole. Ensuring that future Mancunians can afford to live in the city centre is essential. A significant factor in the attractiveness of these communal areas is a desire to rebalance the loneliness of the modern urban experience, exacerbated by ever-present digital connectivity, with real human contact and experience.

At our Echo Street project for IQ in Manchester city centre we are pushing the co-living concept further, with a wider range of room types and rents and a great location, close to Piccadilly Station and the Universities, Mayfield and Kampus. The scheme complements the architectural heritage of the Whitworth Street conservation area and will be the catalyst for the regeneration of the North Campus and Vimto Park.

But where does the sector go next? Picking up on the idea of user-focused design, long established as a process in the creative agency sector, Space10 (IKEA’s innovation lab) working with design studio Anton and Irene, have developed an online platform for researching the future of shared living. One Shared House 2030 looks to map what co-living should offer, based on a methodical data-driven approach, and could provide an interesting challenge to the sometimes blinkered and reactive view of the property market.

Community and sharing trumps individuality and ownership

The principles of community and sharing over individuality and ownership are beginning to influence other forms of housing, such as New Ground Co-Housing in London, designed for women aged over 50. Twenty-five private apartments arranged around a shared garden and amenity spaces suggests a future for this sector beyond the traditional young professional market.

Just as the millennials are holding on to adolescence, the design-savvy third-agers of the future won’t always want a quiet retirement in the suburbs. This suggests future renting or mixed-tenure communities, managed and driven by the same sense of community and experience, could eventually contribute to the wider regeneration of the fringes of cities like Manchester, offering a “third way” between city centre and the traditional suburbs.

Home ownership remains a powerful driver for many, but the ground is shifting as the dream becomes increasingly unaffordable, or is being put off until a later date.

For the full article in Estates Gazette follow this link.

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