Where Home May Soon Be for Many Millennials

Next Big Thing 2016: Co-living is the new solitude. Why members of Generation Y are opting out of mortgages and choosing grown-up dorms

Written by Alexandra Bosanac

As more and more people opt to do their jobs in co-working spaces, wouldn’t they be willing to apply the same philosophy to living quarters? That’s the idea behind the latest expansion of WeWork, a New York€“based firm that, since 2010, has built a US$10-billion business running co-working spaces in more than 20 cities. Specifically, WeWork is betting that millennials—who, statistics show, are in no rush to emulate the suburban two-kids, two-cars ideal preferred by their parents—will choose communal living.

The idea is called WeLive, and the company thinks single young professionals will happily eschew a solo pad in the burbs in favour of shared living quarters (think: private bedrooms, communal dining and recreational spaces) in hip downtown neighbourhoods. According to WeWork—which plans to have 69 co-living sites in operation by 2018­—WeLive will be a US$600-million business within three years of opening.

A similar development is underway in Syracuse, N.Y., with Commonspace, a co-housing building that, when finished this spring, will contain 21 fully furnished rooms and a large communal chef’s kitchen. It also boasts a “community manager” (a term borrowed from tech circles), whose role is something between that of a concierge and a residence assistant.

These dwellings are like high-end dorms for the Instagram generation. Again, the target is young professionals who crave, in management’s words, a space that fosters “meaningful social interactions.” For US$1,000 a month, tenants get a cool place to live with like-minded peers—and none of the agitatation or uncertainty of a Craigslist sublet.

Multiple studies have shown that living with adults who aren’t blood relatives can have a positive impact on physical and mental well­being. And singletons sharing spaces is, of course, hardly a new concept. Indeed, grown-up co-housing is the norm in several European countries, including Denmark and the Netherlands.

But until now, most co-living in North America has been directed at seniors. The developments emerging in the U.S. aim to cultivate less of a Golden Girls vibe by catering to the legions of über-social 25- to 34-year-olds who expect convenience, want roommates and, by circumstance or by choice, don’t want to be tied to a massive mortgage. As the cost of living soars in Canada’s major cities, this might be the housing fix young Canucks have been waiting for.


What other industries are millennials changing with their behaviours? Let us know by commenting below.

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