Loida Mckinnon July 1, 2022

Humans have been living together since… forever. But it’s only recently that the term coliving has started to appear everywhere. Here’s everything you need to know about this modern form of communal living.

group up roommates,  two males, one female gathered around a table for breakfast with orange. juice, coffee cups on a pink background

What is coliving?

Co-living is a real estate term that has been recently popularized by the rise of housing startups offering affordable housing in homes shared by five or more adult roommates. These coliving spaces take many forms, encompassing everything from single family homes renovated to accommodate non-related families, or floors in a high-rise building that have been converted into dormitory-style lodging. Coliving housing often entails short-term or flexible leases, as well as perks such as cleaning services, professionally furnished common areas, and turn-key amenities and utilities.

But outside of this trending housing model, coliving is a broader term that can refer to anything from intentional communities to simply living with roommates.

living room with a couch, blue rug, tv and console and large plant.

What are the different types of coliving arrangements?

Variations on communal living range from intentional communities of individuals to companies that develop brand-new buildings to be shared by entrepreneurs and digital nomads. The different ways to co-live include:

  • Informal (or “traditional”) shared housing: Informal or traditional coliving consists of a group of people who share a lease and furnish a home together. They may meet on Craigslist or through their personal networks.


  • Adult dorms: Although they may not self-identify as such, this form of coliving is similar to a college dorm or hotel: an expanse of small (but usually private) bedrooms line hallways that lead to common areas shared by a large number of people. This kind of housing can accommodate hundreds of people living together.


  • Co-ops: In cooperative housing, members commit to work shifts where they clean, cook, and manage the house together. Co-ops are typically democratically governed, and have house meetings where they elect leaders and vote on house business. Co-ops are generally larger houses with anywhere from 15 to over 100 residents. (In New York City, the term co-op refers to apartment buildings that are owned by a group of shareholders.)


  • Co-housing: The concept of co-housing became popular in 1960s Denmark as a way to build community and share responsibilities between families. Co-housing communities are typically multigenerational, consisting of single-family homes spaced around a common house, with shared green space and organized events.


  • Communes: Communes are intentional communities often located in rural areas, where members might practice self-sufficiency or share political or spiritual beliefs.



According to the U.S. Census, the number of young people ages 18–34 living alone decreased by 10.3% from 2005 to 2015. Factors such as the 2008 housing crisis, wage stagnation, and student loan debt have made it more difficult for young people to afford their own apartments. Those who can afford to live alone often choose the community that comes from coliving, especially as young people delay marriage and move farther away from home.

This trend is not unique to the U.S. In Hong Kong, where the average living space per person is 160 square feet (compared to 414 square feet per person in the average New York City apartment) and 76% of adults ages 18–35 live at home with their parents, coliving is a popular alternative to living at home—and one that allows them to save money to buy their own home in one of the most expensive rental markets in the world. In the San Francisco Bay Area, New York City, and London, competitive real estate markets make living alone financially unattainable for many. And for newcomers, sharing a home with friends isn’t an option.

Enter coliving spaces, which offer a safe, flexible shared housing option for single people living in urban areas.

two individuals in a bright apartment. Black male is sitting on couch reading and white female is stretching on a yoga mat

What are the benefits of coliving?

The benefits of coliving are myriad, but among the most compelling are affordability, convenience, and community. Sharing a home with others is a lot more affordable than renting a studio or one-bedroom apartment, especially when additional costs like furniture and utilities are factored in. Setting up those additional things—utilities accounts, wifi, cleaning—and negotiating furnishings is also time-consuming and stressful; coliving saves time and headache for renters by taking care of those things.

For recent grads moving to a new city—or for anyone interested in expanding their community in the city—coliving offers a chance to meet new people outside of the workplace. The turn-key experience of coliving also bypasses a lot of the headaches associated with moving, including dealing with a broker, finding roommates, and furnishing an entire apartment.

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