For many co-living operators, the new GLA co-living guidance released on 27th January was hotly anticipated and will be welcomed with open arms, especially for those who have been seeking to provide a high quality level of accommodation over the last 4 years.
Having a look back to my article I published in August 2019, a lot has changed in the co-living sector. I wrote again later that year asking if co-living would stand the test of time and it seems that it certainly has, despite having to withstand a pandemic at the height of its evolution.
The new guidance sets clear standards of what is expected to create a high quality standard of living. Through our vast experience and research into co-living schemes both within London and in the UK more widely, the standards as proposed by the GLA, are in line with the larger schemes that have been coming forward, with some exceeding the new requirements. We might see some of these schemes re-submitting applications to maximise the number of units that can be achieved.
It is clear that the standards should help decision makers both at officer and planning committee level understand what is needed to make a co-living scheme comply with guidance, but will the new standards make for a successful co-living scheme on the ground, does the rigidity of the guidance align with the whole ethos of co-living, a sector still emerging and finding its feet in the market? In reality only time will tell, once these schemes are built and are operating, creating new communities and a new way of living with facilities such as a gym, a library and co-working spaces contained within the building you live.
Will Grant, Partner at Levy Real Estates, has had a focus on co-living for a number of years now and notes ‘The debate about unit sizes is now over and the more spacious units are expected to be in high demand, with lower churn than the co-living 1.0 product. Make no doubt about it though, co-living viability – especially when compared to uses such as PBSA – is under pressure, and we feel the overly prescriptive requirements on amenity ratios and cooking facilities are unnecessary. Publicly accessible amenity spaces not counting toward amenity spaces is another missed opportunity, and will lead to less interaction for the community. Having flexible amenity spaces which can be used by residents at certain points in the day and the local community at others, is the most efficient use of land’.
Given the important role this document will play in the future of large scale co-living development in London, we thoroughly recommend anyone with an interest in the sector takes part. We would be happy to advise and share our perspective, based on our extensive experience within the sector, with anyone wishing to do so. The consultation will end on 27th March 2022.