Is sharing accommodation on a temporary basis a future lifestyle trend?
More and more young people are living in apartment buildings, often on relatively short-term leases. But what makes co-living so attractive? And what is the outlook for this trend? Rainer Nonnengässer from International Campus, one of the leading providers of this housing concept, joins us for an interview.
The co-living lifestyle trend: communal kitchen with roof terrace at the HVNS apartment building in Hamburg; interior design by brandherm + krumrey (photo: Joachim Grothus).
Co-living: housing concepts for young professionals
The co-living model is relatively new, but it has been gaining ground in international markets for some time. Whether temporary or long-term, communal living in apartment buildings presents new solutions for the urban housing market. Rising rents and property prices in cities make the model attractive to students and young professionals in particular.
The principle behind co-living is simple: residents with similar interests live together in furnished apartment buildings. They have access to shared areas, such as a kitchen or a co-working space, which are also used for communal activities. Renters can move in straight away with minimal effort and expense.
Urban living with a feel-good factor
The rooms or apartments in co-living spaces are usually furnished. Leading providers favour high-quality decor with a feel-good factor delivered by interior design professionals. Due to the volumes involved, co-living is also an attractive growth market for furniture manufacturers from the contract sector.
Many market participants see co-living as a forward-looking concept that could have a lasting influence on urban lifestyles. Although more of a niche model to begin with, this type of housing has now become established in many cities. In Germany, the support for housing for young people and students promised by the new governing coalition could give new impetus to this development.
The popularity of short-term co-living spaces is growing: THE FIZZ apartment in Freiburg (photo: International Campus GmbH).
Rising demand for new types of housing
In the world’s growing metropolises, there’s an increasing demand for new forms of shared accommodation. Co-living offers a compact housing model and responds to the need for companionship, most notably felt by the younger generation. Internationally outstanding projects were honoured this year for the first time at the Coliving Awards.
In our interview, Rainer Nonnengässer, Executive Chairman of International Campus, reveals the recipe for successful co-living spaces and why the demand for this lifestyle trend is likely to continue to grow:
Executive Chairman of International Campus
Mr Nonnengässer, you develop and operate flexible short-term living communities. What distinguishes your company's business model from those of other providers of co-living spaces?
Firstly, we don’t market serviced apartments or boarding houses. Instead, our focus is on offering a residential product, pure and simple. In terms of the concept, these spaces are designed for stays lasting six to twelve months – of course, residents are also welcome to stay longer. On the other hand, students and mobile professionals, are the two clear target groups we have in mind, and we’ve developed two different brand concepts for them.
How do you meet the needs of these target groups?
Because university places in Germany are often centrally assigned, students here have to be mobile. With our housing concepts, we meet their needs for a central location, companionship with a community of like-minded people, easy access, safety and cleanliness, etc. We want young people to feel at home with us right from the start and to be able to socialise.
How do you foster a sense of togetherness?
We do this in various ways, such as by providing communal areas and organising social events. International students in particular benefit from the easy access to accommodation, which is simple to book online. As far as possible, the entire booking process is digital, which makes arriving in a new area and getting settled much more straightforward.
And what does the housing concept offer mobile professionals?
A simple way to move to a new town and support for their core needs. We offer hard-working professionals a living environment complete with everything they need for a longer stay. In addition, we also provide shared facilities such as a gym or a lounge with a co-working space, a communal kitchen and bar. There are different zones to meet different needs – from quiet concentration on work to relaxation at the end of the day.
What role does interior design play in how the projects are used and marketed?
We want residents to feel at home with us from the moment they arrive. So interior design is extremely important. Originality, innovation and design orientation are just as high on the list of criteria as functionality, durability and a certain timelessness. Flexible elements are also key, so that, for example, the colour scheme can be changed by replacing the curtains, rugs, etc. Mobile elements such as wheeled storage units or sideboards also give tenants the opportunity to personalise their own living space.
How do you expect urban housing to develop in the near future?
I think we’re seeing the beginnings of a transformation of the entire market for rented accommodation. In Germany, small flats still only account for a relatively minor share of the market. There are more five-bedroom flats than one-bedroom flats, because the rental market here has traditionally been geared primarily towards families. But it’s been the case for many years that households are shrinking. In most large cities, the proportion of single-person households has now exceeded 50 per cent, and the majority of households are childless. This means that there’s a growing demand for smaller homes, but they’re still not being built at any great scale. As a result, I think construction will increasingly shift in this direction in the coming years.
What potential do you see for co-living models as a new type of accommodation?
There’s a rising demand for serviced living, such as furnished properties or additional facilities like gyms or co-working spaces. But you’ll struggle to find these options on Germany’s housing market at the moment. Supply and demand will have to be brought into better alignment in this respect. Particularly in urban areas, this will lead to a more diverse range of concept-based accommodation offers in the future.
Not least because of the coronavirus lockdowns and periods of self-isolation, many people are increasingly looking for accommodation options that will give them the opportunity to come into contact with other people while still having a flat of their own. Would you like to keep up to date with the latest home living and interior design trends? Then sign up to receive our newsletter here!