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How Will COVID-19 Impact Co-Living?

Apr 22, 2020 by Maurie Backman

The COVID-19 crisis has changed the way we work, grocery shop, and travel -- and now, it may change the way we choose to live. This especially holds true for people in co-living arrangements.

What exactly is co-living?

Co-living can take on many forms. In its simplest definition, it means having one roommate or more. But co-living in modern terms tends to refer to dormitory-style homes in high-priced cities that attract younger renters looking for proximity to transit, amenities, and their jobs. Rather than blow half their paychecks to put a roof over their heads, these people will instead choose to bunk with a number of roommates (often strangers), sharing common spaces like bathrooms and kitchens.

Co-living arrangements can be temporary in nature, lasting anywhere from a few days to a few months. But often, they involve year-long leases. And these days, there are numerous companies out there that facilitate co-living, like WeLive, a subsidiary of co-working space giant WeWork.

To be clear, these arrangements are not necessarily cheap. But they do tend to offer amenities like internet service, housekeeping, and, in many cases, location. They're also a social outlet for folks who are new in town -- or too busy at their high-pressure jobs to go out and make friends.

Prior to COVID-19, the main concerns with regard to co-living were privacy and personal space, or a lack thereof. But as anyone in a co-living situation can tell you, social distancing becomes impossible when you're sharing a home with others, some of whom may be complete strangers or transient renters. It therefore begs the question: Will COVID-19 kill co-living?

A temporary challenge?

Right now's not a great time to be in a co-living arrangement, and some proponents of it may be changing their tune. In fact, Haven, a co-living startup, reports that it's already seen a drop in occupants since the COVID-19 crisis kicked into gear. Meanwhile, in an early April interview, the

CEOs of Common and Quarters, two co-living communities, said they're encountering short-term challenges from existing tenants looking to break their leases.

But while renters may be leery of co-living right now, once the COVID-19 crisis subsides, there's a good chance the concept will regain popularity. Why? For one thing, Americans are social creatures; younger Americans, even more so. As such, the appeal of shared living space will likely return once it's safe to come into contact with people again.

Furthermore, in some cities, like New York and San Francisco, co-living is the most cost-effective option for living in a decent home in a reasonably convenient and attractive part of town. As such, there's a good chance many people will continue taking the risk of sharing a roof with others -- it's better than no roof at all.

Of course, it's too soon to tell how badly co-living companies will get hurt in the course of the pandemic. But chances are, co-living will survive because it fills a very specific need that isn't going away anytime soon -- especially once life gets back to normal.

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