Co-Living : an important emerging UK trend

07 Aug 19 |Alice Hawkins

Although ‘Co-living’ has become a buzzword, this emerging trend is gaining momentum across the UK, with an increasing number of schemes coming forward, whilst policy struggles to keep up.

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Although ‘Co-living’ has become a buzzword, this emerging trend is gaining momentum across the UK, with an increasing number of schemes coming forward, whilst policy struggles to keep up.

Co-living is a niche Build to Rent product providing compact non self-contained units with shared communal facilities. Similar to student rooms, they are typically aimed at young professionals and hailed by many as providing an affordable, and community-oriented alternative to urban living. They are compact with most rooms in practice ranging between 13-26 sqm (a conventional studio should be a minimum of 37 sqm), and often boast more occupants and additional facilities than your standard HMO such as co-working space, laundry, cinemas, gyms, cafes.

This emerging trend is most acutely seen in London, with well-known developments by The Collective pioneering this innovative new approach to affordable housing and addressing the housing crisis. However, it is a myth that there are few other examples: several large schemes of 100+ units are coming forward across the capital as well as a number of smaller schemes of 30-50 units in key hotspot areas. We have recently successfully secured planning permission for an innovative new modular build co-living development in one such hotspot, Ealing.

Notably, there is little policy or evidence base for what is acceptable, and this has largely been established through precedence or a hodge-podge of other planning guidance. To address this, the Draft London Plan has introduced a new policy to define and guide co-living development or ‘Large-Scale Purpose-Built Shared Living’ as its known by the GLA. This policy relates to developments of at least 50 units but most significantly, it establishes a Sui Generis Use Class, exempting such developments from the typical residential requirements such as space and amenity standards and affordability criteria.

The draft policy is both prescriptive in some areas such as setting out how to address affordable provision for a product that cannot be considered traditional C3 housing, and also less prescriptive on residential standards, particularly space guidance. However, in practice and at a local level, approaches vary. Notably, several other London boroughs have included similar policies in their emerging plans, either as a way of controlling growing co-living development or encouraging it within certain locations. For a detailed analysis of the emerging policy position in London, please download our Briefing Note.

The rest of the UK has been somewhat slower in the take-up of co-living, yet there are emerging schemes in Manchester, Birmingham and other UK cities, despite a policy void. Iceni’s Glasgow team have also been advising on the first emerging proposals for a Glaswegian co-living development. In Manchester, the co-living focus seems to be on graduate retention, as seen in the emerging plans for Echo Street that aims to co-locate student accommodation with co-living for young professionals, providing a simple and affordable transition for young professionals.

Iceni’s teams are closely tracking this emerging market across the UK- please do get in touch if you would like to discuss!

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