BB Partnership have obtained planning approval for two mixed use co-Living schemes in Tower Hamlets and Brent and have recently submitted a third application in Greenwich.
In this article we explore the concept of co-living.
Co-living refers to a modern housing model where individuals or small groups of people live together in a shared living space. In a co-living arrangement, residents have their own private suites that include a bathroom and cooking facilities, but also share communal areas such as the kitchen, living room, and bathrooms along with other shared facilities such as gym’s and cinema rooms. Co-living is often seen as an alternative to traditional housing, especially for young professionals, students, and digital nomads who seek affordable, flexible, and social living arrangements. Co-living spaces may offer various amenities such as cleaning services, furnished rooms, high-speed internet, community events, and access to shared workspaces. Co-living can also foster a sense of community and provide opportunities for networking, socializing, and learning from other residents.
One of the primary advantages of shared living is the sense of community it cultivates. Co-living spaces bring together individuals from diverse backgrounds, creating an environment that encourages social interaction, collaboration, and support. The shared spaces, such as common areas, kitchens, and lounges, serve as natural gathering points, promoting friendships and shared experiences. The built-in community can alleviate feelings of loneliness and provide a support system in an otherwise fast-paced and disconnected world.
Shared living often offers a more affordable housing solution, particularly in urban areas where housing costs are high. Co-living arrangements also eliminate the need to invest in furniture, appliances, and other household essentials, further reducing upfront costs. This affordability makes shared living an attractive option for young professionals, students, and those looking to save money without compromising on quality of life. The co-living model also protects residents from the financial risks of sharing rent and bills with others in a flat share scheme and the risks associated with that.
Co-living spaces are designed with convenience in mind. Most co-living providers offer fully furnished rooms and shared amenities, including laundry facilities, high-speed internet, cleaning services, and even community events. This eliminates the hassle of setting up and maintaining a household, allowing residents to focus on their personal and professional pursuits. Moreover, co-living offers flexible lease terms, enabling individuals to adapt their living arrangements to changing circumstances without the long-term commitments associated with traditional rentals.
Co-living environments attract people from various backgrounds, professions, and cultures. Living with a diverse group of individuals provides unique opportunities for learning, expanding one’s worldview, and gaining insights into different industries and career paths. Co-living communities often organize events, workshops, and networking sessions, allowing residents to build valuable connections and learn from one another. The exchange of ideas and experiences within a co-living space can be intellectually stimulating and personally enriching.
Living with others in a shared space can be an incredible catalyst for personal growth. It challenges individuals to develop essential life skills such as communication, compromise, and problem-solving. Shared living also encourages residents to step outside their comfort zones, fostering personal development and self-discovery. By engaging with a diverse group of individuals, residents can gain a deeper understanding of themselves, improve their interpersonal skills, and become more adaptable and open-minded.
Town centres have long been the heart of a community, serving as vibrant hubs of economic activity, social interaction, and cultural exchange. However, many town centres have experienced decline and stagnation in recent years. To breathe new life into these areas, innovative solutions are needed. The introduction of co-living schemes can do this in the following ways-
By introducing residential spaces, the town centre becomes a 24/7 destination. The presence of residents brings a steady flow of footfall throughout the day and evening, increasing the vitality of the area. This boost in foot traffic benefits local businesses, encouraging a diverse range of shops, cafes, and restaurants to thrive. The proximity of residential units also enhances convenience, as residents have easy access to essential services and amenities. This symbiotic relationship between living and commercial spaces creates a positive economic cycle, attracting more visitors, stimulating business growth, and revitalizing the town centre.
Integrating residential spaces into the town centre fosters a strong sense of community. When people live in the centre, they become active participants in the life of the town, forging connections with fellow residents and local business owners. Residents develop a deeper attachment to their community, leading to increased engagement in local events, initiatives, and neighbourhood associations. This sense of belonging contributes to a safer and more vibrant town centre, as residents become invested in its success and actively work towards its improvement.
Many town centres boast historic buildings with unique architectural features. However, these buildings often face challenges in finding viable commercial tenants. Introducing residential units to them can breathe new life into these historic structures while preserving their architectural heritage. Adaptive reuse of these buildings not only enhances their aesthetic appeal but also ensures their long-term sustainability. The combination of commercial and residential uses provides a compelling mix of old and new, attracting visitors who appreciate the character and charm of the town centre.
Co-living adds diversity to the housing market within the town centre. It caters to individuals seeking an urban lifestyle with easy access to amenities, services, and public transportation. It also offers an attractive option for young professionals, empty nesters, and individuals who prefer the convenience of urban living without the need for large suburban homes. By providing a range of housing options, the town centre becomes more inclusive, accommodating a broader spectrum of residents and fostering a vibrant and diverse community.
In a time when urban sprawl is a growing concern, co-living promotes sustainable land use practices. Utilizing existing buildings in town centres maximizes the efficient use of land and infrastructure. It reduces the need for additional suburban development, thereby minimizing traffic congestion and the strain on public services. By encouraging compact, mixed-use development, living above shops supports a more environmentally friendly and resource-efficient approach to urban planning.
A regular criticism of co-living schemes is that a greater number of larger self-contained flats and houses are required to deal with the housing crisis.
Whilst we absolutely agree that more self-contained flats and houses are required it is important to recognise the types of properties that co-living replaces.
Studio apartments have long been favoured by individuals seeking compact living spaces that provide the essentials without the need for excessive maintenance. However, co-living spaces offer an alternative that goes beyond mere functionality. Co-living replaces the isolated nature of studio apartments with a vibrant community setting, where residents can enjoy shared amenities, social interaction, and a sense of belonging. Instead of living alone in a confined space, individuals can choose co-living to embrace a more enriching and communal lifestyle.
In addition many studio apartments have been created from the subdivision of existing houses or flats and more recently from office space. These buildings are generally unmanaged and don’t have the support and security that co-living schemes provide.
Traditionally, sharing a house or flat with roommates has been a common practice to lower living expenses. However, co-living takes this concept to a new level of convenience and comfort. Co-living spaces provide fully furnished rooms and shared common areas, eliminating the need for residents to coordinate furniture, utilities, or even the stress of finding compatible roommates. Co-living spaces offer professionally managed environments with a focus on community-building, creating a hassle-free experience that enhances the overall quality of shared living.
For individuals requiring temporary accommodation, extended-stay hotels have been a popular choice. However, co-living spaces present an appealing alternative for long-term stays. Co-living provides the convenience of a furnished room, shared amenities, and a vibrant community, all at a more affordable price point. Rather than staying in a sterile hotel environment, residents can enjoy a welcoming and engaging atmosphere where they can build connections and feel more at home.
With the rise of remote work and the digital nomad lifestyle, co-working spaces have become popular hubs for professionals seeking flexible work environments. Co-living takes this concept a step further by integrating living spaces within co-working communities. By providing both accommodation and workspace in one cohesive environment, co-living spaces cater to the evolving needs of modern professionals. This integrated approach allows residents to seamlessly blend their personal and professional lives, fostering collaboration, networking, and work-life balance.
Co-living schemes constitute major planning applications and invariably involve a large number of relevant parties that need to be consulted with during the planning process, but up until recently there has not been any specific guidance on the actual design of the co-living elements themselves other than policy H16 of the London Plan.
The London Mayor’s Large-scale Purpose-built Shared Living guidance is a policy document aimed at providing guidance to developers, investors, and local authorities on how to apply London Plan Policy H16 to ensure that shared living developments are of acceptable quality, well-managed and integrated into their surroundings.
The guidance emphasizes the importance of building high-quality shared living accommodations that are affordable, sustainable, and provide a sense of community for residents. It also recommends that shared living accommodations should be designed and built to a high standard, with adequate space and amenities, such as communal kitchens, living areas, and outdoor spaces. It also suggests that developers should work closely with local authorities to ensure that the accommodations meet the needs of the local community and are integrated into the surrounding area.
Prior to the publication of the guidance the minimum size of shared living rooms had not been stipulated and whilst all three schemes BB Partnership have designed meet the requirements, there are other examples of completed schemes in London with much smaller rooms.
A further stipulation in the new guidance relates to the number, type and area of the shared accommodation along with its distribution in the development.
The guidance also highlights the importance of affordability and the need to provide shared living accommodations that are accessible to people on a range of incomes. To achieve this, the guidance recommends that developers consider offering a mix of different sized units and flexible rental agreements, such as short-term leases and all-inclusive rent.
Finally, the guidance emphasizes the importance of sustainability and the need for shared living accommodations to be built to a high environmental standard. This includes considerations such as energy efficiency, green spaces, and access to public transport.
Co-living is not an option for every site but it can contribute to the diversity of an areas housing mix, it can be used to revitalize well connected urban locations and to breathe new life into existing buildings.
It should not be seen as an erosion of the requirements for self-contained flats and houses but as an alternative to shared houses, bedsits and studio flats.