As cities become more expensive and wages stagnate, co-living apartment developments are touted as a way to make rental housing affordable again.
And, according to a panel at PropTech Toronto late last month, Canada’s demographics have changed so quickly that the rise of co-living arrangements was, seemingly, inevitable.
“In the last Census, there was a 20% increase in the number of roommates over a five-year period,” said Mat Abramsky, founder of Milyou Co-living. “If you look at co-living compared to the alternative of renting, it’s actually a discount. You could share an apartment with people you meet on Craigslist, and while (co-living) could be considered a premium, the quality you get could be better. When you compare co-living to a basement studio that’s 600 square feet and damp, once you pile all the bills, which you pay on your own as opposed to pooling in, for us it works out to a 25-30% discount.
“Nurses, firefighters, policemen and others are priced out of those $2,200 apartments in downtown Toronto.”
Abramsky added that Milyou residents who opt for studios save, on average, 20%, and those who live in one-bedroom units save 30%.
Common is yet another co-living company—with 25 homes across the United States, it also allows residents to move from one home to another—that is capitalizing on the burgeoning popularity of curated living spaces. While saving money is a major reason people gravitate towards co-living, the social element is arguably greater.
“How do we reduce the surface areas of conflict? We get units fully furnished so people don’t fight over who paid for the couch or dishwasher detergent or toilet paper—we include all that in the rent,” said Jake Chai, Common’s director. “We track data and engagement from all members of how often they attend the social events we curate. If we notice they don’t attend groups, we reach out and give them a gentle nudge. We tell them that if there’s something they’d like to host, Common can fund it. There’s a thoughtful way to do it to make sure you’re not overly pushy.
“We noticed that in Chicago people like comedy shows whereas New York people like food-centric events more.”
Co-living is also a way for developers to mitigate risk while ensuring their product is resilient, he added.
In Kitchener-Waterloo, global firm Node Living is capitalizing on the cities’ emergent status as a tech hub with its first Canadian property, expected to be complete around 2021. Shafin Jadavji, a local partner of Node Living, says downtown Kitchener’s apartments have long waiting lists and it’s a problem that will only worsen.
And with a buoyant economy attracting people from all over, the timing of Node’s co-living development couldn’t be better, he says.
“We want to curate an experience so that if someone is moving to Kitchener from Sydney or Seattle or New York, we want them to transition quickly and we want to make it seamless,” said Jadavji. “Our curators ask them questions—if you’re a marathon runner, we connect you with another running partner the day after you arrive. It’s to keep you connected with events in the building but also outside the building. We want willing participants who engage with the environments they’re in.
“Co-living is just an objective, but the experience you have is what co-living will become. It’s the experience of the bespoke individual and their ability to connect with the communities in which they live.”