Coexistence can solve many of our housing problems | Connected

Humans’ desire to gather seems unshakable. Two and a half years after the COVID-19 pandemic and government restrictions forced us to separate, most people are desperate to spend time with family, friends and fellow citizens.

This is evident in the way live events, theaters and cinemas are back in action after long periods of enforced closure. But it is also evident in the continuing demand for conviviality. At Kosy Living, I’ll admit there were points in the pandemic when we wondered if life would ever return to normal, but we kept faith and plowed forward in accumulating the ground and seeking planning permission to win our first batch of projects.

In fact, our thinking about which parts of society are more attractive has evolved and expanded. It is clear that coexistence has a special attraction for graduates. After all, those who have experienced the best of PBSA while at university will find it difficult to adjust to what can often be poorly maintained and organized in the private charter sector (PRS).

By contrast, co-living solutions are almost universally well managed and carefully designed. They also tend to include a range of amenities that are not normally available in PRS. Given all of that, it may come as a surprise to some who aren’t familiar with the condominium sector that rents in general are very competitive.

A recent study by Savills found that shared living rents, which tend to include energy costs and service charges, as well as access to amenities such as gyms and movie rooms, compare favorably with PRS once utilities and expenses such as gym memberships are taken into account. Oftentimes, co-living will come out as a more affordable option. At Kosy Living, we definitely aim to provide accommodation to suit a range of budgets.

But it’s not just about fresh graduates. A recent report indicated that the average age of co-tenants in London exceeded 30 for the first time. We believe that coexistence has broad appeal to professionals, startups and entrepreneurs who know that mingling with a wide range of other talented people provides a petri dish of innovation. This is something that has long been understood in the flexible office sector but we think it applies equally to housing. In order to multiply the effect, we usually include a large workspace width in our designs.

We also want to dispel some of the myths surrounding the co-living target market. The sector is often assumed to be the reserve of young people, but we know from anecdotes and from the data we hold that coexistence has broad appeal. Ultimately, the concept is all about creating a rich sense of community – something that appeals to every generation.

Inherent in this broad appeal is choice. In addition to generous storage compared to your typical PRS apartment, all of our studio apartments benefit from cooking facilities, so clients can choose to eat a meal alone or with a partner if that’s what they want to do. But cooking facilities on each floor also allow residents to meet or actually host family and friends. Sharing a meal or even a bowl of coffee or a bottle of wine becomes normal. Community spaces should be open and welcoming, allowing for a natural conversation and sharing that strong sense of community, but also with some nooks and crannies so people can separate from some personal space if they so choose.

We also work hard to provide other opportunities for people to meet. In our village we live together in Brighton, for example, we have a garden roof terrace, which will provide a pleasant space for residents to relax, interact with each other and entertain friends and family. We are also committed to providing other, less specific social spaces. The whole point is to allow society to live and breathe.

Of course, it is important to talk about a sense of community in terms of the net benefits it provides. But it’s also the case that promoting inclusivity is very important in the face of the ill effects of the pandemic. The lockdowns have been detrimental to most people’s mental health, but for those who live alone they have been particularly harsh. Providing a solution between privacy and community provides a lifeline. Everyone hopes they never have to experience lockdown again. However, the coexistence model is more than prepared and easily adaptable to this, and can in fact address many of the problems that occurred previously, including isolation and loneliness.

Later life model

This point was made further to us by an email we received from a lady in her late sixties. She said the loneliness of the lockdown had hit her hard and that she desperately wanted a room in one of our projects. This got us thinking. Of course, you will be very welcome in any of our projects,

But we also realized that perhaps she and the others would be happier in a development more tailored around her age demographic.

We’ve already looked at the afterlife concept that has had success in the United States, Australia, and parts of Europe. However, it has not fully launched in the UK, where the lines are still largely blurred between living and retirement homes. As a result, we developed our own co-living concept later.

The key there is affordability, just as with developments aimed at young people. Currently, there are some senior living schemes that operate using the rental model, but the vast majority are very expensive – it is not unusual for a unit to cost £4,000 or more a month. This is clearly unsustainable for most people.

However, there is a huge potential market out there. According to a recent report by JLL, by 2025 around 20% of the UK population will be over 65, which represents about 14.3 million people, most of whom are stock-rich. At the same time, there is a chronic shortage of housing designed for their needs.

What’s more, as it stands, the UK’s senior living market is immature compared to comparable countries. Currently, only 0.6% of those over 65 live in such accommodation in the UK, compared to more than 5% in Australia and the US. As a result, JLL estimates that there is a potential need for an additional 725,000 housing units for seniors by 2025, which is equivalent to nearly 50% of all new homes built at the current rate.

Of course, a cultural shift is needed if we are to move to a situation where it is only natural for people to downsize to housing for the elderly. But the benefits of doing so are manifold. The truth is that we are facing a serious housing crisis in this country, where millions of young families cannot afford adequate housing. RICS estimates that by providing viable alternative housing for older families, 2.6 million homes could be returned to the mainstream housing market.

In such a situation, many people will undoubtedly choose to buy an apartment rather than rent it, but when you stop to think about it, renting is an attractive option, especially if the rents are affordable and predictable. For example, if an individual or a couple decides to buy an annuity, they will receive a reliable monthly income for the rest of their lives, part of which can be allocated to cover housing costs.

This unlocks an impressive amount of money. According to JLL, people over the age of 65 own about £800 billion of shares. By switching to the rental model, retirees can unlock the wealth they have accumulated and either reinvest it, fund the lifestyle they have long craved, and begin to transfer money to younger generations in a tax-efficient manner or a combination of the above.

The point is that co-living and later co-living, when done thoughtfully and in a way tailored to different demographics, can provide a solution to many of the most vexing problems facing the UK housing market. At Kosy Living, we’re just getting started – but the opportunities are virtually limitless.

Paul Brundel is the CEO and founder of Kosy Living

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