Co-Living Communities – Hippy Throwbacks or The way forward for Sustainable Living?
Everybody at some point in their lives has co-lived. The earliest experiences for most people were with their families; standard for a child and essential for their survival. Then whether it was going to university and living in dorms or shared houses, or branching out into the big wide world, most people, unless their parents were minted or they landed a pucker job where they could afford a studio or one bed flat, moved into a house share – until the person of their dreams came along and they made the big adult decision to move in with them and do the settling down business, which inevitably led to a mortgage.
Well, times have changed. Not only is there a mass house shortage but the cost of living is so high, especially in cities like London where people are struggling to find suitable spaces.
This coupled with a shift in consciousness and rise of awareness with regards to environmental and social responsibilities has resulted in a new wave of thinking. The breakdown of families, the effects of consumerism, the old ways of doing things are not working for the new generation who have access to all the information previously unavailable to generations before. A new generation who care, who want to make a positive impact, have a sense of responsibility and willingness to build communities that can affect positive change.
This has given rise to a new way of living.
Co-living is not a new concept unto itself, the hippies did it in the 70’s, and as mentioned before students have always done it. But this new co-living has not risen out of a freedom revolution or solely out of financial convenience but rather out of a new movement of affordable sustainable living in communities, which supports the current trend of thinking and movement of global communities.
One of the major pluses of the digital age is information sharing and building of communities online. Having access to information you wouldn’t normally have and to groups of people you wouldn’t normally encounter, has created a major shift of empowerment and innovativeness to develop new interests and share ideas. Thus, the building of communities has been happening for some time; whether it’s books, games, or any other special interests, there is a forum for it.
And it’s continuing…the generation that grew up with the internet and used to community networks, even if that be on online, are now creating them in their own homes, so to speak, by creating community co-living homes.
In London, there are currently somewhere in the region of five Co-living communities and it’s growing. So, what are the perks? Well, for a start there are a variety of different rooms priced according to size e.g. studios, one bed flats, ensuite rooms, and spare rooms for guests to stay in for a small fee.
The rooms look impeccable – they don’t have wires hanging out and aren’t dodgy in any way, but are clean, crisp and well- maintained. There is even a cleaning service included in the price.
There are large spaces shared by the community – most of which have a gym, spa, laundry room, a restaurant, cafe, library, and other decked out shared living spaces that look good and reflect a space that YOU WANT to live in. ALL of these shared spaces look high end. Some of the kitchens are even themed, for crying out loud. And keeping in line with the themed angle there are also themed events: including film nights, yoga classes, live music, guest speakers etc.
So, is this the Peter Pan generation that doesn’t want to grow up? If you ask me that’s the best way to be: a functional, happy adult that enjoys life and people. And why not have a busy social schedule? Why not more time for leisure activities? Why not promote and live a life that supports the community and sustainable living? Because through shared utilities and shared spaces you DO SAVE COSTS and that’s why it’s affordable and THAT DOES BENEFIT THE ENVIRONMENT. That does benefit the individual to be a part of a new system that is not destructive.
For a generation that has thrived and is continuing to thrive from social networking, co-living is also a great way to build business opportunities and has also been proven to make you healthier and to live longer.
So, what are the downsides? Well, the obvious one is that you might not want to see the same faces in the same spaces on a daily basis. It can also feel a bit cultish – but then what isn’t? Ultimately, you have the choice whether you want to spend all, or most, or as little of your time there. OK in the kitchens you’ll most likely see the same faces, but you don’t have to go to all the events just because they are free. You are free too to move around and go elsewhere but also have the benefit of having these things on your doorstep. Another downside for me would be the age group -I’ve always liked to mix with a variety of ages and these communities are thus far, made up of the 25-35 age range. At least it’s a fun.
When you weigh up the highs and the lows, the highs win in my case. It’s always about what you value as an individual – as a concept it’s progressive and that in itself is a massive selling point.
This is a future that reflects a wave of rebellion against an old outdated and unworkable system. So, in my eye, bring on the co-living; it really looks like the way forward. And for those wondering what will happen when these 20-30’s age group want to start families, then there are already co-living spaces being designed right now to accommodate co-living families. Very interesting to see where all this leads.
I’d like it to see it progress even more towards sustainable living; so that part of the rent is used to create and fund sustainable, organic, agricultural farming so that there is a market on site where all the fruit, vegetables etc. can be bought at a low cost, eventually with there being no money exchanged at all. I’d like to see everybody living in the community serve the community somehow, through a minimum number of hours volunteering to either maintain the farm, the living space, or offer a service to others, so that the residents can somehow benefit from each other’s gifts and skills. And a way to counter the cultic quality and to involve neighbouring communities would be for the residents to offer their services to the greater neighbouring community. Since the majority of these co-living spaces are currently in areas, either being regenerated or have recently been regenerated, then why not have the young folk offer their services to either youth groups, projects, or charities in the neighbourhood.
There’s a lot of ways that this could develop. The seed that’s already been planted and is now sprouting has all the right ingredients so far to grow into a huge garden of opportunities and provide a lushness that organically permeates the rigid system currently in place – to take over the weeds and grow a community like the companion planting supporting system, where everything works together and supports one and other for vitality, longevity and equanimity. Call me an idealist if you like, but the opportunity is there. Will we take it?