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Co-Living Projects “a Rising Trend in Canada”

Written by
Tuesday, October 8, 2019
Image Credit: Common/Dream Unlimited

Rental rates at new co-living developments will include roommate matching, utilities, high-speed wi-fi, shared kitchen and bathroom supplies, hospitality-grade amenities and weekly cleaning of shared spaces.

Co-living is a rising trend in Canada, says the new Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2020 report by PwC and the Urban Land Institute.

“Blending features of apartments, dorm rooms and hotels, co-living accommodations offer residents the opportunity to have their own space within common areas at a more affordable price,” says the report. “Some developers are developing multigenerational co-living projects, in which separate buildings accommodate the needs of a particular generation, but there is also common community space shared by all residents.”

Node, which operates rental co-living spaces in the U.S. and Europe, recently announced plans to build a 38-unit building in Kitchener, Ont.

Node founder and CEO Anil Khera, who grew up in Toronto and now splits his time between Canada and the U.K., says, “We have big things planned for Canada” and hopes to enter every major Canadian city one day.

The company says co-living embraces “the three C’s of cost (affordability), convenience and community.”

The units reduce costs with smaller, efficiently designed units and by making use of shared communal spaces. It’s convenient because the units come move-in ready, with all the furniture in place. Utilities, including high-speed wi-fi and smart home technology, are included. The company says the sense of community is fostered in the communal amenities, which include co-working space, a residents’ lounge and an outdoor patio area.

Node also offers a community curator, who assists with roommate matching and co-ordinates social and volunteer events.

“Kitchener is the perfect destination for Node’s first Canadian community,” says Khera in a news release. “Kitchener-Waterloo attracts and retains a vibrant pool of top talent in engineering, tech, R&D and entrepreneurship who chase new ways of living that are flexible, on-demand, high esthetic and globally connected – values that we implement into every part of our residents’ experiences.”

The project will house about 50 people in the 38 units. Starting rental prices will be $1,000 per month per person (sharing a two-bed unit) and “upwards of $1,600/month for a one-bed unit” the company says. Leases will be 12 months with “flexibility given to tenants who have to relocate.”

In Ottawa, Common and Dream Unlimited are planning a 252-bed project named Common Zibi. It will be part of a 34-acre master-planned community.

“Cities are facing similar housing challenges throughout the world – urban populations are rising, and housing supply is not keeping up,” says Brad Hargreaves, founder and CEO of Common, which is based in New York. He says Common’s entrance into its first city outside of the United States “is a testament to the growing need for high-quality rental housing options.”

The 24-storey building will include both co-living suites and traditional apartments, along with shared lounges and large shared kitchens, community rooms, in-unit laundry, a roof deck and a gym. Rents are expected to start at about $1,225/month for a one-bedroom in a co-living suite. The company says that’s 31 per cent less than the market rate for a one-bedroom unit in the area. The rents for the traditional apartments will start at about $2,065/month.

The rental rate includes utilities, high-speed wi-fi, weekly cleaning of shared spaces, shared kitchen and bathroom supplies and hospitality-grade amenities, the company says.

Hargreaves told REM: Real Estate Magazine that in traditional shared arrangements, roommate disputes often focus on details such as who is going to buy supplies. “One person is always going out and buying the toilet paper,” he says. Shared supplies eliminates the problem. The company also takes care of lease arrangements, utility bills and rent cheques to make life easier for tenants, he says.

The Emerging Trends report says that “despite the continued desire of many people to own, much less stigma is attached to renting than in the past.”

It says, “Another important aspect of these trends is the blurring of lines between property types and uses. In the past, for example, office space was designed and built to address traditional notions of office-based work. But the new environment, shaped by technology and customer preferences, is changing that approach significantly. With access to a good wi-fi connection, a traditional office is no longer necessary. Once again, flexibility is key as form follows function.”

But Hargreaves says in the company’s 30 co-living buildings in seven U.S. cities, 85 per cent of the residents work at a traditional office. “They are not students or freelancers working from home,” he told REM. The median age of the tenants is 30.

“Much like the introduction of cloud computing revolutionized the software sector, the rise of real estate as a service (REaaS) is transforming all areas of real estate,” says the PwC/Urban Land Institute report. “Although co-working is the most common example of REaaS, the concept cuts across property types. As the gig economy becomes more prevalent in Canada, all space – whether residential, office or retail – will increasingly be viewed as a service that is rentable.”

The report says that in the growing movement toward temporary spaces, some consumers now focus more on the monthly cost than the total purchase price of a property.

“While affordability is a factor, the REaaS trend also goes back to changing consumer behaviours as people look for more flexibility as their lifestyles and preferences evolve.”

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