The Hong Kong rental market is tough for young professionals: living space in this crowded city is scarce and expensive. International cities such as New York and London offer a new solution: co-living.
Hong Kong has already embraced co-working, WeWork has already launched here and there are many smaller operators offering similar office space ‘memberships’ as an alternative to conventional renting. Co-living is simply the residential equivalent.
How co-living works
Co-living brands such as WeWork offshoot WeLive and Common in New York and The Collective in London offer young and not so young (the average age of a Common member is 30, although some are in their 40s) a membership which gets them a private room, bathroom and kitchenette as well as access to shared facilities, such as a large kitchen, laundry room, lounges and outside space.
The membership fee is often more expensive than for a studio flat in the same area as the co-living building, but crucially the new facilities are fully furnished (and to a high standard) and the membership fee includes all bills, taxes and a cleaning service. There is also a social element, with organized activities to help members socialise.
Co-living buildings vary in size; some might have only a dozen rooms, while others take up the whole of a large building and can house 500 people. Larger buildings offer less privacy but a wider range of shared facilities; they may include screening rooms for example.
But can co-living work in Hong Kong?
Savills head of residential services Edina Wong thinks co-living would work in Hong Kong and she believes there is growing demand from millennials; however landlords and investors are unfamiliar with the concept.
In theory, co-living should be ideal for Hong Kong. Many modern buildings already offer shared facilities, such as gyms, swimming pools and function rooms. A co-living space merely extends this concept and blends it with services that would be familiar to tenants of a serviced apartment.
Developers would need to reconfigure buildings to create more small-bedroom units and extra shared spaces. This might be hard in buildings with a small floor plate – tenants are unlikely to want to take the lift to their sitting room!
Investors and developers would have to be persuaded that building to own and manage offered better returns than developing apartments to sell. Landlords who stinted on the service element would soon find themselves short of tenants.
Finally, the pricing would have to appeal to young professionals. Crucially, the co-living spaces in New York and London do not offer a cheap alternative to renting a small apartment, they have a wider offer at a similar price.
Interviews with co-livers in New York suggest the concept is working; surely it won’t be long before we see it in Hong Kong?
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