The sharing economy has normalized sharing our cars with strangers through Uber, our homes with tourists through Airbnb, our workspaces through co-working office spaces through companies like WeWork, and now, our everyday lives, thanks to new “co-living” concepts like WeLive and Common.
WeWork, founded in 2010, allows freelancers, small businesses and even large companies to rent out access to the shared co-working space with much more flexible (and potentially lower cost) leases, compared to those of traditional brick and mortar businesses. With 19 locations in three countries, its shared workspace model has proved so far successful. Now, it’s hoping to apply the same principles to its new “co-living” concept, WeLive, which began testing in New York this month.
According to Fast Company, around 80 WeWork members moved into 45 microapartments in WeLive’s first commune-style building, atop their existing WeWork location on Wall Street. They plan to eventually house 600 members across 20 floors, offering studio, one bedroom and two bedroom floorplans. All units are furnished, decorated and include cable and Internet upon move-in. Cleaning is included with rent, while residents are charged separately for utilities. Residents also have access to amenities like an in-house yoga studio and movie theatre. Leases are offered only on a month-to-month basis, allowing residents to stay for the short term. In many ways, it’s a yuppie paradise.
The communal living concept isn’t new, necessarily—cultures that emphasize close-knit families have been doing it for years, while many low-income families can only afford housing costs with generations of family members sharing the home. Many college students both love and loathe the dorm experience, and with Millennials flocking to urban areas with high rents in droves, communal living complete with amenities might seem like an appealing way to curb the dearth of affordable urban housing.
Until they see the cost of trendy “co-living,” that is. Common, a similar co-living startup with two communal houses in Brooklyn, starts at $1500 a month for a tiny private bedroom—only marginally cheaper than studio apartment rents in the same area (though these, of course, are difficult to find and lack communal amenities).
While the concept of co-living may appeal superficially, it’s not a realistic solution to affordable urban housing. As Suzanne McGee of The Guardian notes, “Even if it’s cheaper and more accessible, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s optimal, and certainly city governments can’t assume that this is a model that will come close to solving an affordable housing crisis for Millennials.”