Many of us have already lived, or are currently living in, some sort of shared community housing. Whether it be from a college experience of living in a dormitory or a retirement community filled with other senior citizens, the loosely defined, yet increasingly popular concept of co-living has taken on many forms in society. The co-living market giants, including WeLive, Common, and Ollie, center themselves around participating in a shared economy, offering a financially sensible housing solution, and fostering meaningful social connections. As we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic and adapt to the enforcement of social distancing and stay-at-home mandates, co-living tenants have felt compelled to navigate the loopholes in the designs of their communities in order to discover new ways of living with others, while also mitigating health risks. In fact, co-living communities may be better positioned to handle a pandemic while balancing a sense of normalcy more so than traditional residential real estate offerings.
Pairing a global health crisis with a collapse of economic systems in many of the world’s urban centers certainly raises questions about the value of living in close quarters, and whether promoting high-density living spaces is favorable. While the sparse human interactions between people who venture out to retrieve necessary supplies reveal the tensions of the world we are experiencing, co-living communities are successfully showing us how these connections can be maintained. They are developing the groundwork for how to create a microcosm of society by underscoring their values.
Unsurprisingly, quarantine measures have hit the co-living sector hard. While Ollie has seen an increase in short term leases (30-90 days) for college students who were displaced when universities were suddenly shuttered, long term renters have been inquiring about leases at a rate of around 30% less since the risk of contracting the novel virus was first identified. The fear of moving into a shared community in a time when health officials are encouraging isolation is scaring applicants away. In an attempt to boost their rental rate, some companies, such as Common, are offering flexible lease options, no security deposits, special pricing, and reduced rates for healthcare workers.
For those who currently live in these communities, the primary concerns revolve around the health of residents, and how to create a clean and safe environment. Many companies have reported that they have enhanced deep cleaning routines throughout the common spaces, focusing heavily on shared surfaces, including countertops, sinks, and doorknobs. They are also asking residents to wear masks when outside of their private residences. One community in Hong Kong has even begun to encourage residents to use toothpicks when pressing elevator buttons, and another creative living house in Los Angeles requested that residents set alarms on their phones to remind them to wash their hands every two hours. In the event that one of the residents were to be diagnosed with COVID-19, many communities have set aside empty units as designated quarantine zones where residents can receive mild medical treatment. And while society outside of these communities flocks to grocery stores in droves, some residential managers are asking residents to form teams, and to alternate who makes trips to the store. The California-based co-living house, Starcity, informed residents that they had preemptively stockpiled extra supplies including paper towels, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant to be shared by everyone.
But what about the critical social spaces and programmed events that bring residents together? By leaving some shared spaces such as co-working lounges, laundry rooms, and gyms open, but creating a rigorous cleaning schedule and setting strict guidelines, residents are able to see one another in passing, and have at least some affinity for the community that they collectively built. Up(st)art reported that residents are supporting one another in new ways, and instead of holding weekly dinners, they are leaving meals in the lobby to be shared with other residents. Community members are also exploring their personal hobbies through on-line meetups, seeking to find other residents with like-minded interests. Several groups have already formed photography shares and video chat workout classes.
Normally, residents are busy with their day to day lives but have taken this opportunity to slow down and bond with fellow members by exploring creative ways to still interact and understand the true value of the community. If the current pandemic rages on for the next several months as health experts predict, co-living seems to be a viable option for retaining some sense of normalcy. Although residents are coping with the reality of living in a shared home during a global pandemic, they’re thankful that at least they're waiting it out with other people.
We invite you to check out ArchDaily's coverage related to COVID-19, read our tips and articles on Productivity When Working from Home and learn about technical recommendations for Healthy Design in your future projects. Also, remember to review the latest advice and information on COVID-19 from the World Health Organization (WHO) website.