More than a smart solution to housing affordability, co-living can work for everyone from Millennial digital nomads to single parents, says Wood and Grieve Engineers’ Rebecca Dracup.
Dracup, a sustainability project engineer with WGE, now part of Stantec, says there is a “huge hole in the housing market” that can be filled by co-living.
“There aren’t many options for young professionals who want to live independently and affordably – particularly in our big cities like Sydney and Melbourne,” Dracup says.
Nearly a third of Australians now rent, and this figure is expected to increase as Millennials and Generation Z – who together account for 48 per cent of our population – choose lifestyle and location over home ownership.
“Millennials are migratory,” Dracup explains, and are increasingly prepared to trade off personal space for lease-free flexibility, and to have the conveniences of furniture, internet and utilities ready and waiting.
“Travel is cheap, opportunities arise all over the world, and work can be done anywhere. Co-living appeals to people who are frequently moving states or even countries and are looking for an instant community where all they need to bring is a suitcase.”
Last year, Dracup spent a night at UKO Stanmore, Sydney’s newest co-living space. While small on personal space, the residents have access to a large commercial kitchen, a central courtyard modelled on a European town square, a vegetable and herb garden, a worm farm, yoga classes and more.
Most importantly, it is “life simplified”, Dracup says.
“There is little cleaning required because the individual units are small and the communal spaces are serviced regularly. You can say goodbye to one-year leases and shifting carloads of furniture every time you move. Simply pay and start living.”
Co-living may echo established models: boarding hostels, university digs and share homes. But they are decidedly more luxurious. And their potential to create community could help us meet a range of priorities in our growing cities, Dracup says.
“Social isolation is a problem for Millennials, but co-living encourages more interaction among peers.” She points to the looming mental health crisis among young people and the raft of research which suggests loneliness is on the rise. According to the Australian Psychology Society, one in two of us feel lonely at least one day a week.
But the co-living model isn’t limited to the young. “It has the potential to create a support network for everyone from the elderly to professionals wanting to be part of an entrepreneurial ecosystem”.
It could provide solutions for fly-in fly-out workers and the growing number of older women facing homelessness. Single-parent families could also create supportive places where “sleeping areas are separate but large, communal dining and kitchen areas bring people together”. There would be scope for parents to share childcare and other resources, Dracup adds.
Ultimately co-living can help us reconnect, “because with co-living it’s all about community”.
Learn more about how WGE’s team, now part of Stantec, are applying innovative thinking and clever engineering solutions to create better cities.