WeLive provides residential properties in New York and Washington for professionals who are prepared to live in small but stylish apartments with add-ons like housekeeping services, unlimited beer and yoga classes. Another New York co-living company, Common takes residents on an excursion to a camp near Lake George a few times a year.
For the most part, co-living spaces offer tenants serviced rooms in shared apartments with communal lounges, bathrooms and kitchens. A group of strangers move into the same building, each signing their own lease for a private bedroom and (sometimes) bathroom, but share common spaces and amenity.
It’s been gathering momentum in China for several years and like the Chinese economy is growing much faster than in the US. Nationwide chains offer thousands of temporary housing units for millennials eager to live away from their parents, and with each other.
The best-known if not largest Chinese co-living chain is You+ which currently accommodates over 10,000 people across 25 buildings.
In the Guangzhou branch in Baogang Avenue, Chinese pop music plays loudly in the background while the residents hang out together, playing pool or on their laptops. Washing machines take QR codes for payments and in a cultural departure for us nanny state westerners, smoking is widespread and ashtrays abound in common areas.
It costs about $400 per month to rent a bedroom of between 20 to 50 square metres with a private bathroom and a minimum lease of six months. The residents aren’t doing it for pure economics. The same $400 will get a complete apartment in other parts of the city but You+ residents are seeking a more social environment than traditional apartment living.
It’s a trend that could be a factor here too. In just the next 20 years, Australia will see a 65% increase in the number of single person households according to the ABS. Depression is likely to be the leading cause of morbidity by 2030. Co-living promotes a sense of community which could strongly combat unhealthy seclusion and declining mental health.
For many of the residents, living in You+ marks the first time they live away from their parents, or their Chinese university dormitory.
Tony Yu, who manages the Guangzhou Baogang You+ branch, says that the hardest part of his job is making sure everyone gets along. Drugs gambling and prostitution are banned but that’s it as far as rules go. When problems arise, Yu has to ensure the problem is solved like when residents complained dog poop was left lying around the common area.
He brought up the issue, saying “We all know that there is a dog who is pooping and peeing in public areas and their owner is not taking care of it.,” but added he “didn’t say whose dog it was because I didn’t want the person to lose face.”
You+ makes all of its revenue from rental fees. But the company hopes to reduce that figure to 20% in the future, and bring in money from other services. You+ isn’t a property company at all, he says, it’s an internet company, albeit one that specializes in the “internet of people.”