Welcome to the show notes for the 7th episode of the podcast, Coliving Conversations, a show that shines light on the people, projects, and places of the blossoming coliving movement!
In this episode, join co-hosts Naima Ritter Figueres and Matt Lesniak for an insightful conversation with Diana Lind, who is an urban policy specialist and author of the book “Brave New Home: Our Future in Smarter, Simpler, Happier Housing“. You will learn all about the the housing crisis, especially regarding access to housing, housing planning, and housing affordability. In addition, we will explore the role of shared living in helping to address the housing crisis.
Some of the key points covered in the episode include:
- The problem with single family homes on an economic, social, and environmental.
- Why bravery is needed as we evolve our housing models
- The need for new housing policies
- Where current coliving operators are falling short
- Risks of the coliving model and how to overcome them
- The business case for community
Listen to Episode 7
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Key Resources mentioned in Episode 7 (Season 1)
Brave New Home: Our Future in Smarter, Simpler, Happier Housing: In her book, Diana Lind shows why a country full of single-family houses is bad for us and our planet. She details new efforts underway that shift away from the norm and enable us to live less lonely and more affordably. These include multi-generational living, coliving, tiny houses, and new rural communities.
15 Minute City: A residential urban concept in which most daily necessities can be accomplished by either walking or cycling from residents’ homes. 15-minute cities are built from a series of 5-minute neighborhoods, also known as complete communities or walkable neighborhoods. The concept has been described as a “return to a local way of life”.
- NOwnership, No Problem: Why Millennials Value Experiences Over Owning Things: Forbes article highlighting a demographic trend of young people valuing experiences over owning things.
- How and Why to Foster Thriving Community: A presentation that Matt and Naima gave to the staff of the Social Hub, including the benefits of thriving community for residents and business.
Coliving Business Models: An overview of typologies and models, including asset-light business models. On this page, you can explore challenges such as planning approvals, financial viability, multi-stakeholder engagement and corporate sustainability, as well as understand the impact of the pandemic on coliving businesses.
- London’s Large-scale Purpose-built Shared Living policy plan: This guidance document provides information on how to apply London Plan Policy H16 to ensure these developments are of acceptable quality, well-managed and integrated into their surroundings
The Seven Community Capitals: The seven community capitals are natural, cultural, human, social, political, financial, and built capital. Strong and resilient communities strive for balanced investments in these seven capitals.
Webinar “How to embed ESG & social value”: Overview of what an impact framework is and why you should have one for your shared living businesses. This webinar is designed to help you to get started on your impact journey, and feel grounded in how to think about ESG & social value in relation to your shared living business.
About Coliving Conversations
The first season of Coliving Conversations will kick off with new podcasts aired every two weeks and can be listened to on many platforms including Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast and at ConsciousColiving.com/Podcast. This show asks the question – how is shared living already tackling some of the biggest challenges that we face today AND how can we scale it in the way that the world needs?
You will gain insight into the latest trends shaping the industry and hear loads of practical tips related to shared living business models, technology, and investment as well as how to enhance community, wellbeing and sustainability.
Season 1 Partners
It is Time to Be Brave: Shared Living & The Housing Crisis
[00:00:00] Naima: How can shared living help address the housing crisis? Let’s explore.
Welcome to Coliving Conversations, a show that shines light on the people, projects, and places of the blossoming coliving movement.
Hi, my name is Naima Ritter Figueres, Head of Community & Wellbeing at Conscious Coliving, and I’m here in the studio today with my co-host for this episode, Matt Lesniak, who is Head of Impact & Innovation at Conscious Coliving. Matt is an urban sociologist by training with years of experience in the shared living and place making sectors.
[00:00:45] Matt: Hey Naima, really great to be in the studio with you again.
[00:00:51] Naima: So in this episode, we’re gonna dive into the topic of the housing crisis, especially regarding access to housing, housing planning, and housing affordability. So, Matt, why is this so important to talk?
[00:01:07] Matt: Well, I would say this is really important because the way we live and work has changed so much over the last decade or so, and even more so since the pandemic.
So what’s known as the nuclear family, home and lifestyle has been the main housing typology over the last 70 years or so. But this housing typology is just outdated and no longer adapted to the changing needs and desires of current generations. And on top of this, the latest research and stats show that it’s becoming harder and harder to access affordable housing, whether it’s to buy or rent.
Not only that, but housing stock is getting older and older and the quality of existing homes is not adapted to health needs or even the ongoing climate change risks like naturals, disasters and floods and, and the likes.
So this is an important discussion for the simple reason that the way we design and build our homes, whether they’re new builds or conversions, needs to be adapted and, and city planners and their laws, as well as developers and operators need to facilitate these evolutions.
[00:02:08] Naima: Yeah, absolutely, thanks Matt. And today, to dive into all of this more, we’re gonna talk to Diana Lind, who is an urban policy specialist and author of the book, Brave New Home, Our Future in Smarter, simpler, Happier Housing.
Some of the key points that we’re gonna cover in the conversation today are:
- The problem with single family homes on an economic, social, and environmental.
- Why bravery is needed as we evolve our housing models.
- The need for new housing policies at the local city and national levels and where current coliving operators are falling short,
- as well as tips on how to make the coliving model more accessible to the mainstream.
[00:02:49] Matt: Cool. Thanks Naima. And we’re gonna get into the conversation now with Diana and then Naima and I will be back in the studio for some reflections. Enjoy!
[00:02:59] Naima: And before we dive in, I wanna give a big shout out to our partners, without whom season one of coliving conversations would not be possible. These are:
Coly: A scientific profiling and matchmaking platform for shared living.
Spaceflow: And all-in-one tenant experience platform to enable better life in buildings.
And GoHumanGo!: a collective of professionals supporting people and planet.
Naima: Diana, welcome to the show! Thank you so much for joining us today!
[00:03:30] Diana: Thank you for having me.
[00:03:31] Naima: So let’s just jump right in. Um, you’ve written a book that’s called Brave New Home, our Future in Smarter, Simpler, Happier Housing. So I’m really curious about what motivated you to write this book, and especially, I’m curious about the word brave. Why do you use this term in regards to housing?
[00:03:57] Diana: Sure. Um, so what motivated me to write about the book, um, was really the, the last period of intense price appreciation in housing in the US um, around 2016 or so. I live in Philadelphia and Dinar City, and that one year, the price of an average home went up by 20% in a year.
And it was not just Philadelphia, but it was cities like Seattle and you know, New York, San Francisco, and so many cities were trying to think about how they could address affordability, um, in those places. And, um, a lot of times just really falling short, even if they kind of came up with plans to raise money through taxes to build more affordable housing.
The number of people who needed affordable housing was just so much larger than what a government could potentially provide. And so that really got me thinking about, um, what were some of the ways to build housing more affordably, that didn’t rely on the sort of public sector.
And so I really kind of wanted to write the book as almost a theory of everything that related, um, back to housing.
Why was our society so segregated? Why is our society so ill-equipped to handle climate change? Um, and why is our housing so unaffordable?
And I saw these as issues that were not just in the US but around the world. And so to get to your second question around brave and, and why do we need to be brave I explore in the book a lot of the kind, um, ways in which media, the government and kind of overall, um, social dynamics had really led to, um, this assumption about ways that people should be living. And that we should be living kind of more, you know, in this much more private, um, you know, 2,500 square feet for a, you know, a single person, couple or something like that.
These kinds of ideas, um, didn’t come out of nowhere. They have been built into our society, whether it’s the financing of housing, um, the way that, um, mortgages are, are built to, um, the kind of impressions that we see, um, in the media to the language that people use around families who have, you know, extended family, living with them for all these various different reasons.
I think a lot of people feel very intimidated by the idea of living in a different way than that kind of socially accepted norm. And so I do think to live in a different way requires a certain amount of bravery, uh, whether that is living in coliving, whether that is living in multi-generational living, whether that is, you know, putting your health at the forefront of your housing choices.
Um, these are kinds of things that require a certain amount of bravery, not just for individuals, but also for governments or for developers or for really whoever is involved in the housing.
Um, a lot of new ideas around housing that I talk about in the book, but they’re really ones that kind of harken back to the ways that people have lived for a very long period of time.
And so it’s, you know, it’s both brave and it’s also kind of like very natural at the same time.
[00:07:25] Naima: Returning to, to what it means to be more human, no?
[00:07:29] Diana: Yeah. Yeah, I definitely think that that’s part of it in terms of, you know, I start off the book with the story of, um, raising my first son and this experience of kind of raising him alone in a house on my maternity leave while, you know, my husband was back at work and just kind of being alone in my house by myself and thinking, wait, how did humans survive like this for so long?
And then I was like, oh wait. This is not the way that humans did it. Most of history people did not live like this. Um, in fact, most, you know, for most of history people raised families and, and communities kind of communal fashion. And so, um, yeah. Yeah.
[00:08:12] Naima: Wow. Thanks for that introduction. Um, super resonating. And, um, so in the book, you, you go into some detail about why single family houses are bad for people and for the planet. Could you elaborate on this a bit more for the audience?
[00:08:34] Diana: Sure. Absolutely. So, you know, I think you could look at it in sort of three fashions, the social, the economic, and the environmental.
Um, on the social side of things, um, people really value their privacy, their alone space, and a lot of single family housing is really built around, um, providing that for people. Um, you know, at the same time, I think a lot of people are grappling with loneliness, especially in this digital age, um, certainly in, um, the Covid era.
And so, um, you know, from a, a social perspective, um, I think that there are a lot of other ways beyond the single family home that people could live much more communally.
Um, in, you know, I cover in the book accessory dwelling units, which are these kind of, you know, in-law suites or backyard cottages. Or in kind of more co-housing styles where you’re, you’re in a more intentional community, but you do have your private space.
Um, so you know, from a social perspective, I think that, you know, single family homes just don’t really provide for the same kinds of social interactions that some of these other types of housing doing.
It’s not just like the, the social, it’s really more also about being able to take care of family members.
Um, a lot of people would be happy to live with another generation, but it’s very difficult with the way that housing is set up right now. They don’t wanna share bathrooms, they don’t wanna share kitchens, but they would like to be close by, especially to someone who is in need of care.
So, um, it’s housing type that is not really conducive to caring for others, I think is another way of thinking about the sort of social dimension.
Um, and certainly just one other factor, and this kind of relates to the economic side of things, um, you know, single family neighborhoods and single family zoning, and oftentimes, let’s just say there’s also minimum lot sizes. You’ve basically created a kind of situation where you have created a price point that is the price point for entry to a neighborhood.
So, um, if it has to be a minimum 2000 square foot house on a one acre lot, um, in many places it’s going to be a very expensive neighborhood. And so that also becomes socially problematic because you’ve created very homogenous type of, community, um, and probably a very segregated community.
Single family homes are really the most expensive housing type um, also. Um, and so having housing choices and different housing types really kind of allows for the economic and social diversity that, um, I think a lot of people crave and that we need to have a sort of functioning society.
So, um, then, then just saing into the environmental factors, what we have now, which is an increasing, um, amount of square footage per person, while the average household size is going down.
What you end up having is a ton of space that needs to be heated and cooled. Um, you know, you have, uh, appliances for every single individual. Uh, it’s a really, it’s, it’s a high carbon, uh, footprint style of living.
Um, and so if you end up having, you know, ways in which people could live more community to share more resources, then you end up with a very different kind of dynamic in terms of um, you know, how we address climate change.
So, you know, there’s a lot more to say there, but I’ll just, you know, stop there.
[00:11:59] Naima: Yeah. Fascinating. Really interesting and enlightening so thanks for sharing. And the, the second part of the title of your book is Smarter, Simpler, Happier Housing. And so you’ve mentioned already a few of these other examples, so coliving, multi-generational, um, but could you just paint a little bit more of a picture of what, what is smarter, simpler housing look like? And happier!
[00:12:22] Diana: Yeah, so I definitely think that it’s really kind of dependent on what type of housing that you wanna be living in. I think for a lot of people, happier housing might end up being just something that better matches where they are in their stage of life you know?
Um, the single family home might be great for a family, you know, that’s raising kids and whatnot. But if you’re, um, let’s just say you’re. Getting divorced or you’re moving cities or you’re a digital nomad or you’re looking after grandparents, whatever it might end up being. Um, this kind of idea of happier housing is one that is, is better suited to what your needs could be.
The simpler side of things it’s really hearkening to actually something that I cover in the book, which is these demographic trends that show younger people are more interested in experiences rather than things, you know, that you don’t need to have as much house, um, you might want more experience along with your living situation. Um, and that might be where you find the, the simpler.
And I think that the smarter kind of, just kind of goes back to again, like what, what’s the right fit for, um, you know, and what’s smart for our society really in terms of, you know, when we think about where we want our cities to be headed. So yeah.
[00:13:43] Naima: Love that. Yeah. Great. Um, so obviously this is a, a podcast about coliving, so would be really curious to hear your perspective more on the role of coliving and, and broader shared living in addressing all of these crisis that you’re mentioning.
[00:14:02] Diana: Sure. Um, like a really big history in the US was something that’s more akin to coliving in the sense that, you know, in the 18 hundreds, um, something like half of urban dwellers either were, um, you know, someone who had been a border in a boarding house or they were, um, a host. And so, um, that, you know, is a, is a very common aspect of the ways that people lived.
But you know, in the olden days, kind of living with people was the catch. Nowadays, that’s the, that’s the point. That’s the, that’s the exciting part. So nowadays you have coliving kind of coming in where the whole point of it is connection.
Um, is being, is the communal aspect. Um, and I think I wanted to kind of cover the way in which this was responding to that need for connection, but also a whole host of other different types of kind of demographic, um, changes.
Like people wanting to access expensive cities and um, and not really wanting to, um, have to kind of think through what are my activities going to be for the week or the weekend. And having a bit more of a, a built in social environment, um, through housing and kind of like a frictionless, um, experience of, of actually acquiring housing.
So, you know, for people who are used to, um, getting, you know, your own internet and your own water service and your heating and all that kind of stuff, this is like a much lower friction, um, kind of opportunity.
But yeah, I think that the pandemic certainly altered people’s plans.
Prior to that, you’re hearing of a lot of different, um, coliving providers launching new cities, new projects, new kind of sub themes of their coliving concepts and so on. And then the pandemic really put a pause to that. And then, um, what I’ve seen since then is kind of like more of a consolidation of the of the scene.
And then frankly, even some coliving providers stepping back from it necessarily being about coliving and not even calling it as much that so much as, um, this is becoming more of a traditional apartment experience with some added amenities.
So I think that, like, that’s what I’ve seen kind of from the bigger coliving providers.
I think that the sort of more grassroots, smaller coliving scene has just kind of continued and in fact, in a way, flourished even more because of the increasing acceptance of remote work and the opportunity is for people to work anywhere. Um, so I think that’s really, really interesting.
[00:16:50] Naima: Mm. Yeah. No, absolutely. And. In your opinion, where do you see the coliving slash shared living sector falling short? Like where, where could the sector be doing more?
[00:17:04] Diana: I definitely feel like it is a real missed opportunity to really get onto and be integrated into a lot of different types of platforms. For a lot of people who are looking for places to live when they could live really anywhere um, there’s not a good way to search for and find out about coliving spaces if you’re not already kind of part of the scene.
So I think that, um, one of the key areas of, of falling short has just been finding ways to connect to that audience that’s not really even aware of coliving as being a thing, but would be open and interested to it if they knew about it.
[00:17:44] Naima: Mm, yeah. So basically making it easier to, to find coliving, especially through online searches.
[00:17:51] Diana: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And I mean, I think also like one of the things that, and I was reflecting on this a little bit when I was thinking about, you know, some of the consolidation that I was mentioning earlier. Like it is a little bit disappointing to hear of former coliving providers sort of backing away from the ethos of coliving, um, and, and kind of becoming more traditional after, especially after they have scooped up other coliving spaces that might have been more about like the communal environment.
On the other hand, I definitely think that there were a lot of challenges for those major coliving providers in terms of the ways, particularly a US audience views this as being like commodifying community at a, um, at a major level, like, you know, these big real estate investors commodifying community.
I think it kind of rubbed people the wrong way. And so, um, I also feel like they were in a tough spot in terms of, um, you know, how do you approach this as a major developer and also, uh, how do you, how do you approach developing community in thousands of units across the country or something.
You know, I mean, I think that’s just a challenge. Um, I think they, no one has really figured that out well. Um, I think it’s an interesting challenge. One that would be awesome to see someone achieve in an authentic and and meaningful way.
[00:19:25] Naima: Yeah. And just cuz that’s so interesting, the term you’re using, commodifying community. Um, would you link that to be a synonym as community washing, which is another term we’ve been hearing?
[00:19:37] Diana: Yeah. Um, you know, people are wise to the idea that. You can throw the word community around really easily and it, there may not be anything there.
Um, and also I think that people are also kind taken aback when it’s like by your way into this social scene. On the other hand, I mean, we’ve had country clubs and things like that for, you know, private clubs forever, which are basically the same thing, just minus the housing.
[00:20:07] Naima: Yeah, it’s a, it’s definitely a heated topic um, at least in many of the events and, and conversations we have about community washing, you know, it’s, you can’t just throw people into four walls and say, hey, that’s community, right?
There really is this need for, for the facilitation of community. And, and I think you’re right that that has been a challenge, especially for the larger players. How do you do that on a large scale? Which, um, shout out to Gui for his book, the Art of Coliving, which is all about how to, you know, create transformational coliving experiences at scale. And we, yeah. So we talked to him in the first episode about that.
So, um, Dana, you know, cuz you’ve looked a lot, um, also at policies, you know, in relation to housing, um, how do existing housing policies limit, you know, these alternative models such as, as coliving? I guess you’re more familiar in the US but yeah, just in general.
[00:21:07] Diana: Sure. Yeah. I mean, in, by and large. Coliving as housing type is, is outlawed in many American cities, um, in, in many different places, um, as part of the ways in which, you know, zoning has moved towards single family homes and away from, you know, a boarding house or single room occupancy building.
Um, and those really in most cities got outlawed in the seventies and eighties as cities try to gentrify downtowns to kind of attract people back to their cities. And so, um, really getting coliving back as something that people can build as of right meaning without any kind of zoning variance or whatnot, um, it’s, I think it’s challenging in a lot of cities.
So I definitely think that’s why you end up with coliving, especially a couple of years ago, and these bigger providers really going after maybe more affluent younger people and a certain model that’s focused on that. Because in order to sell it to a city as being something that they should allow and want, you have to show this as like desirable, um, uh, at large.
And so, um, you know, on the other hand it’s also been interesting to see how that has then allowed people to open up their eyes to this model for all sorts of other different kinds of applications like, um, you know, housing, the formerly homeless or people who are in need of, um, wraparound medical services. Coliving could be a really good option for those places.
Um, so I definitely think that the, you know, certainly more progressive cities have opened their eyes and minds to coliving over the past couple of years. Especially after some of those more like positive models, um, first came out.
Um, in New York many, many years ago, um, there was an effort to really build one of these first, um, micro apartment buildings that then ended up having kind of services that went along with it. And that was sort of the front forerunner of, um, coliving in New York city.
But I think the, in general what I’ve seen is, you know, that sort of housing type just not being allowed and, and cities just not being sure how to properly zone for it and um, so on.
[00:23:30] Naima: Yeah. Fascinating. Do you have any, um, awareness of how these policies are in Europe or the UK?
[00:23:37] Diana: I don’t know. I don’t know as much about um, that, but I have, you know, obviously seeing how there’s, Europe has a much stronger, um, base of housing stock that is multi-family that are apartments. I would just have to imagine in public housing, I would have to imagine that there’s a bit more openness there to just even the format of coliving.
[00:24:03] Naima: Um, and just to kind of follow up on this policy point, what kind of innovative policy solutions have you seen that do encourage or, or support the development of, of new housing alternatives? .
[00:24:19] Diana: Um, I often get questions from people who say, like, I wanna have coliving in my small town, how do I do it?
And I would say, you know, one of the best ways to do it if you’re, you know, really trying to do it in a place where you might not have the zoning to actually do it, is, is to partner with the city itself and say like, let’s do this, do this together, and as a pilot project and get buy in from, from the get go.
I also think that, you know, there have been other cities that have thought about coliving as a way to, um, incentivize a certain type of housing for a certain group.
So, for example, policies that encourage workforce housing is another way in which coliving can transcend being focused just on, um, the, the affluent.
Um, I think that, you know, some of these policies that kind of look at different types of, um, workers who could particularly benefit from a coliving, um, style, that’s a way for, um, cities to kind of encourage this.
And to also think about like what could they trade in exchange for allowing a coliving space and sort of altering their zoning to do that.
Um, uh, you know, the developer making certain promises in exchange for the city, um, providing the, this sort of zoning variance.
[00:25:37] Naima: Mm. I love this idea of really partnering with, you know, your local town, the city, um, yeah, thanks for sharing that.
So earlier you mentioned, um, uh, you know, the the neighborhoods, the cities of tomorrow.
How do you see the evolution of the concept of home fitting into this changing way that we’re developing the, the cities and neighborhoods of tomorrow?
[00:26:05] Diana: Sure. I think that, um, the cities of tomorrow are just gonna be really different by virtue of, of the amount of remote work that I think will end up, will end up seeing.
I think that on the one hand you could see people becoming much more interested in sort of everything being encompassed in their house. So really just sort of, luxuriating in more and more of their own private house.
I could also see, you know, on the flip side, people really trying to, um, find places that they can live that are more social spaces, that have coworking spaces that are part of it.
Um, and that are these kind of 15 minute cities that you can walk around and access all of your needs together. Um, and I think that an increased focus on different types of, um, You know, hubs and they don’t have to be in city downtowns.
Um, you know, there are ways to build these kinds of hubs that are centered around, you know, sort of basic needs, but that, you know, allow people to live in, in all sorts of unusual destinations and not just, um, you know, these big downtowns with huge amounts of kind of public transportation infrastructure.
[00:27:20] Naima: Mm, absolutely. And, and from an environmental lens, cuz you know, we’re seeing a lot of policies pushing, um, for more sustainable ways of living. What would you say about, about that in terms of housing?
[00:27:34] Diana: Well, definitely I think that the idea of a 15 minute city, the idea of being able to walk or bike to all of your daily needs, um, you just can’t do it with a single family home, really. Like it requires a certain kind of density of housing.
So I think it’s, you know, it’s an exciting moment in terms of just all these various different elements coming together in terms of people’s, you know, people wanting to live in a different way for a whole host of different reasons.
Um, and, um, certainly from the environmental perspective, I think that that just, you know, adds a bit of urgency to, to changing up the way that people are living.
[00:28:18] Naima: Yep. for sure. Um, well Diana, as we’re starting to wrap up this excellent conversation, um, what would be your top tips that you would give to shared living developers and operators?
[00:28:37] Diana: I think my top tip would be finding ways for people who are not already in a coliving situation to experience it. I think that a lot of people before they end up moving somewhere, making a big adjustment or even thinking about this as a kind of lifestyle, like should spend a night somewhere, somewhere just sort of seeing what it’s like, whether that’s, you know, through experiencing some of the, um, amenities or going to a group dinner or, um, or just a one night stay or something like that.
I think that that’s just huge for, um, converting someone and also just like making people a bit more familiar with it. I mean, I think that like one of the other things is that something that was advertised, like, uh, just a lot of times I found this in my research, like you could, it was advertised that there are these, let’s just say communal dinners or yoga classes on site or things like that.
And then, um, when you actually kind of inquired about it, these things did not, you know, exist or they did at one point and they’ve now changed. And I think that a lot of times there’s a lot of different, um, coliving providers kind of figure out what model works for them.
They change up a lot of what they’re, you know, doing and providing and maybe don’t update as much like, oh, okay, this is, this is what we do now. This is our formula of coliving these days.
And so, um, I think that just kind of being transparent about, um, some of those, different sorts of changes. And also just like making sure that there is some kind of consistency.
Like maybe starting out with a model where you’re building upwards rather than taking things away, um, over time I think would be really helpful. Um, and give people a bit more confidence.
Cuz I think, you know, if you see like, oh, they used to do X and they don’t do it anymore, that sort of makes you feel like. You know, company gonna fall apart. Am I gonna still have like my, my space here in a year?
Um, and I think people have a good reason to worry about that, just based on the fact that there have been a lot of, there’s been a lot of consolidation in the, in sort of the big, um, coliving spaces.
[00:30:53] Naima: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Great. Um, so something that we like to ask all of our guests is what does conscious living mean to you?
[00:31:06] Diana: I think conscious living means to me being aware that you have choice in the matter of how you end up living. Um, that you don’t have to take preconceived ideas and just adopt them for the way that you want to live.
But in fact, if you wanna live, um, differently in one way or another, um, and doing so in a way, You know, makes you happier is better for the environment, um, you know, is more interesting to you. I think that is kind of the, the definition of being conscious about your living choices.
And I think that was really what I wanted to do with the book actually, is just kind of make people aware of what, um, you know, the history of, of housing is like, and, and ways in which you can make a conscious decision to live in a different way.
[00:32:07] Matt: Wow. What an awesome conversation. I really resonate with so much of what Diane is saying in this conversation, but especially her stance of to live in a different way requires a certain amount of bravery.
[00:32:19] Naima: Yeah, absolutely. I really resonated with that as well. Indeed, like shared living, coliving kind of goes against this social norm of what for generations has been our idea of success. Of owning your own home, owning your own car.
And with coliving, you’re sharing a lot more than owning. So you do, you need to have courage to kind of pave your own vision of. Success means to you.
And what’s exciting, as Diana said, is this shift in, in demographics that are showing that people, especially young people, are valuing experiences rather than things, um, more and more. We’ll put a link to, to one of the studies on this in the show notes.
And coliving as we’ve spoken about in many of the other episodes, is really experience oriented, right? So coliving is aligning with this shift in demographics with this shift in interest.
[00:33:13] Matt: Yeah, totally. And it’s exciting to see these shifts in what people value, uh, especially shifts, uh, that are really valuing things like sustainability and, and we find these, these societal shifts really align with what the planet also
[00:33:28] Naima: needs.
Yeah, absolutely. And the other aspect around bravery, came up for me is, you know, living in this different way, and we’ve talked about this a lot, Matt, you know, requires unlearning certain lifelong held patterns and beliefs in order to be able to live more harmoniously, right?
And so, you know, as we personally know and as we’ve also seen with many of the cases of people we work with, is it’s, it’s challenging to live in shared living cuz a lot of the interactions can bring up stuff, bring tension, bring conflict.
As humans, you know, we come with different backgrounds, we come with different ideas, with different values, and so it does take courage to be able to, yeah, be willing to engage with these differences and to also look inward.
To look at yourself or all talk about me, to look at myself and see what are the behaviors, um, or patterns that I might be contributing to any of the tensions or conflict that might be occurring, right? So what’s, what’s the emotional baggage I’m carrying? What are the unhealthy, uh, or unhealed traumas that might be triggering me or others?
And so these are all things that, that really need to be thought about when, when living more communally.
[00:34:40] Matt: Yeah, so true. We, we actually spoke more about these kinds of challenges in episode one of this series with Gui Perdrix on The Transformative Power of Coliving. So if you haven’t listened to episode one yet, you definitely gotta tune into that.
[00:34:55] Naima: Yeah. And just to feed off that point, and also for our listeners, cuz you know, if you haven’t experienced shared living, not to scare you off with that living together means only, you know, tension and conflict.
There, as Matt saying, in this Transformative Power of Coliving episode, we also talk about the beautiful growth, the personal development, the the, the transformation that can happen as a result of being able to use these interactions, being able to use conflict and tension as an opportunity for growth, as an opportunity for connection instead of separation, which is what we’re used to.
So I just wanted to add that in, um, and give a bit more of a balanced picture.
So yes, living community comes with these challenges and requires bravery, and it also brings a lot of beautiful opportunities.
[00:35:41] Matt: Yes, of course, Naima. And, uh, a quote I really like is, uh, with, with breakdown comes breaktrough.
So , when, when, when there are these challenges and friction points, there’s always something beautiful on the other side as well. Thanks for bringing that up.
Um, and yeah, and, and on the topic of live in community and, and the challenges that come with it, one of the biggest challenges Diana mentioned in this conversation is the idea of commodifying community.
And losing the coliving or the community ethos when shared living businesses scale up.
So, Naima, you and I spoke, speak a lot about this. Um, you you wanna share more about that?
[00:36:20] Naima: Yeah, for sure. So, I mean, we’ve definitely seen many cases of this, especially when an operator has to kind of bend to the demands of a developer or investor who has not understood or fully understood the value of community.
So what we’ve seen, you know, shared living operations might be selling the idea of community to attract residents, but then there’s no real buy-in from upper management to actually invest in creating authentic communities.
And so, you know, we see, you know, not really having regular events, no real community facilitators or managers on the ground. Um, you know, not a real sense of of feedback, uh, loops or channels happening. Not really encouragement of residents to get involved.
And it’s really unfortunate when this happens, not only for the residents, but also for the business side of things, right? We’ve seen the case of really bad Google reviews or negative, uh, NPS, uh, Net Promoter Scores and yeah, I mean, residents are not happy and they’re telling the world about it.
Which obviously is not gonna be good for your business.
[00:37:24] Matt: And, and community is definitely the USP of coliving is definitely what sets coliving apart from so many other models, real estate models like hospitality or, or even service departments. Um, it, uh, it’s really the, the glue that ties everything together.
And something we’ve seen that works really well is to validate the business case for community by showing things like the cost savings associated with it.
So for example, with stronger sense of community, shared living businesses can have stronger retention and referral rates, lower acquisition costs, and overall more brand loyalty. Which really just leads to more savings in the long run on, on a range of different levels.
[00:38:05] Naima: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, Matt, you and I talked about this at the keynote we did for The Social Hub, and you also did a presentation for ULI on, uh, yeah, on Why and How to Facilitate Thriving Shared Living Communities where we, we also spoke about the business case for that. So those links are in the show notes.
Um, and another tip I would add is, yeah, to also make sure you’re including community metrics in your key business performance indicators right from the get go, right? So make sure community is being valued, um, next to your ROI.
Um, and also setting up strong user and community experience, uh, journeys and strategies. So really thinking through that flow of, of the residents coming in and what that experience is gonna be like.
[00:38:58] Matt: Yeah, for sure, for sure. And these kinds of community metrics and strategies are really important factors of a solid coliving business model. And Diana spoke a bit about the coliving business model, especially consolidation and diversification of the model.
And I wanted to expand on this point because the coliving business model has not yet totally been validated. And a lot of stakeholders throughout the industry are still scratching their heads a bit on what the best approach is to take.
And one approach we’ve seen more and more of is around diversification. Um, and diversification of revenue streams, but also diversifications of portfolios and assets within a specific portfolio.
So this means adding new revenue streams, like a coworking space for locals and F&B offer, or maybe even some kind of social club membership. And you can check out episode four of this season to hear more about a great example of this kind of mixed use model, which is The Social Hub.
And yeah, another approach we’ve seen is diversification of assets within a specific portfolio. For example, diversifying from just coliving assets or being purely a coliving operator into other assets like multi-family workforce, housing, and even coliving for young families.
So as most coliving spaces, you know, require a lot of operational costs, this kind of diversification really helps operators to scale their businesses and also provide a solid community experience for their residents and locals.
[00:40:35] Naima: Yeah. Cool. Great points there, Matt. And, uh, yeah, listeners can find a guide on the Coliving Business Model in the show notes as well. So, Matt, so on your point about coliving business models, um, still being validated and, and explored, what would you say are some of the, the current risks, um, related to the coliving model so far?
[00:40:56] Matt: So one of the big risks that we’ve seen is the issue of coliving spaces, not meeting the needs of locals and not adhering to local planning laws. And this can lead to issues like gentrification and coliving operators being denied planning for their projects, which is not a great look for the coliving sector at all.
And an approach to take here is having a strong placemaking strategy by undergoing things like stakeholder mapping exercises, uh, to really understand the needs of locals. But also partnering with local and city level authorities to better understand their development and city plans and see how best to respond to them.
So we’ve seen this, for example, in London with coliving operators and developers partnering with the Greater London Authority to create their new plan on purpose-built, shared living. Uh, and now there’s a specific policy for coliving that, that will share in the show notes.
And this was really a collaboration, like a private public collaboration between developers, operators, and, and city planners.
And, and the bigger idea here of including local needs and needs of, of residents from the get go is to create neighborhood hubs that contribute to a range of what we call community capitals.
For example, human capital, social capital, political capital. And we, we leave a nice research about these kinds of capitals and the show notes.
[00:42:22] Naima: Yeah, all the capitals. Um, great insights. Thanks Matt. And, yeah, where else do you see there’s room for growth and improvement in the, in the shared living sector? .
[00:42:34] Matt: So as we say, very often shared living businesses need to measure what they treasure.
We’ve seen that shared living operators that are measuring impact and embedding ESG and social value into the core of their strategies outperform operators that don’t.
So these kinds of strategies and metrics not only enhance business performance, but also help provide accountability to their teams, residents, neighbors, and other stakeholders.
Impact driven data also helps show the benefits of the shed living model to the wider real estate industry, and it will enable the coliving model to be better understood and for the sector to ultimately consolidate and thrive.
Penny and I have been doing quite a lot of work on these kinds of frameworks and this kind of research into ESG and social value. And you can dive more into this topic in a webinar we’ve been hosting called ESG and Social Value and Shared Living, which is on our website at consciouscoliving.com.
[00:43:31] Naima: Yes, everybody check it out. It’s great.
[00:43:35] Matt: Thanks Naima. Thanks Naima. And finally, I’d just like to, end on a quote from one of my favorite urbanists, uh, one of the OG urbanists in the, in the 19 hundreds, Jane Jacobs. And she used to say:
Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when they’re created by everybody.
And this just really resonates for me because it aligns with the philosophy we at Conscious Coliving, really value, which is this multi-stakeholder approach in which shared living businesses consider the needs of, of everyone.
And of course, one of the most important stakeholders these days is, is our planet.
Um, and we really need to think about how to take decisions that will impact our communities, our cities, and our planet for generations.
[00:44:26] Naima: Aho. Thanks brother. Thank you for sharing that, and also for your, your famous phrase, measure what you treasure. Um, I think you’re known in the industry for saying that. And, and now, uh, all of our listeners will as well.
Um, and I think that’s a, a great way to, to wrap up this episode. Um, I think, uh, a big takeaway from, from this conversation and these reflections is that while we are facing a huge housing crisis globally, there’s also a huge opportunity to co-create a new living paradigm that better meets the needs of all people and the planet.
And of course, innovation and trying new things takes courage, but together we can make it less scary.
So Matt, thanks so much for joining me for this last episode of season one.
[00:45:23] Matt: Yeah. Thank you Naima. It’s been a really fun conversation and of course, big thanks to Diana for all of her insights and big thanks to all of you out there for listening.
[00:45:34] Naima: Yes, indeed. We really hope you’ve enjoyed season one of Coliving Conversations.
If you haven’t had a chance to listen to the other episodes, do check them out because each one really adds some different insights and value into the different and many layered, uh, aspects of the coliving movement.
And of course, stay tuned for season two.
Coliving Conversations (Season 1) a co-production between Conscious Coliving and GoHumanGo!
Till the next season!
What comes next in your coliving journey?
Join a Coliving Community
If you made it all the way to the bottom of these show notes, then coliving might be the next move for you. As has been noted, the benefits of coliving are many. These communities can be not only a lovely place to live, but also a great place to work.
If you are curious, then go ahead and find your coliving community.
Create & Optimise Coliving Communities
Whether you are a team member at a big real estate company, or part of a small start-up, innovating can feel overwhelming. Luckily, there are many passionate organisations and individuals here to support you, including us at Conscious Coliving and our partners. To begin with, make sure to explore existing coliving research and resources.