After shaping up the hotel industry, putting senior and student housing in temporary danger, the last months also showed that the residential real estate market remains strong and a primary necessity.
The future of living will not be defined by the fact that people live in primary residences, but by what type. And two trends are emerging from a crisis that are promising one template of living: rural coliving .
The concept isn’t new. Coliving spaces and remote communities for digital nomads, nature lovers and remote travellers have existed for years and most are here to stay. From coliving companies such as Outsite with 30+ locations across the globe to former operators such as Roam who offered half a dozen spaces worldwide, individuals had the chance to stay in for days or weeks in a shared living environment.
What will make the difference in the year to come is that major companies had to recently adapt to remote work and that the trend will allow more people to choose where to live. While historically, living in cities was a gateway to opportunities, today’s infrastructure allows individuals to consciously decide to escape the city while maintaining access to professional opportunities.
“With airlines reopening on July 1st in Europe, we are expecting to see a move of individuals to remote coliving locations. Those who can financially and professionally afford it will seek community and connection with nature after months of isolation within four walls.” says Gui Perdrix , director of Co-Liv , the world’s largest coliving association.
But according to Perdrix, the real innovation will have to lie inside the spaces.
“Coliving is operating in different forms, from micro-units to truly shared environments. While ten years ago, coliving was mostly run by individuals, today’s industry suggests that we reached Coliving 2.0 - with an established scene of organizations, institutional investment, and ecosystem players. This was needed so that we can focus on the next step: aligning and leveling up our coliving spaces, concepts, and operations.”
THE SUNSHINE EMBASSY MODEL
The coliving sector has developed and adapted: more individual space for residents, improved operations, and technology-enabled processes make the living experience smooth for residents.
While the current coliving industry focuses on individual needs, Coliving 3.0 will have to focus on collective needs: community, neighborhood, and the environment.
One year after having expressed his views on the future of coliving in a joint interview with Matt Lesniak entitled “ Coliving 3.0 - The Future of Coliving ”, Gui Perdrix joined Paula Bublay in the creation of a new project: Sunshine Embassy .
“We’re opening a coliving space in Mallorca to allow people to have a home with people they love. And we will live in it. This means that we are going to create the space with the standards and vision that we want to live by - intentionality, sustainability, and true community.” says Bublay, who founded Sunshine Embassy in 2019 and is now reopening in a new location.
Sunshine Embassy, a 16-people coliving house in rural Mallorca, is going to open its doors on July 5th for the original community. According to Bublay, the Sunshine Embassy model is different than most approaches of coliving spaces:
“Here too, we’re taking a different approach than most coliving operators. Instead of trying to grow with spaces that need to be filled, we first focus on building the core community before scaling up. And even that is uncertain: our goal is to enable life-changing experiences, and we will prioritise this before any additional growth plans.” says Bublay.
KEY ELEMENTS OF THE 3.0 MODEL
How will a space be able to implement and serve the needs of the collective? The team decided to tackle it on four fronts:
First, coliving is about community . Instead of taking a top-down community building approach, the project focuses on the needs of each individual and is there to serve those. “We don’t want to be hosting Margarita Cocktail nights. What we want is to give people a space that they can use - for their own purposes, their own events, and above all, to be with their friends.”
Second, coliving has to empower and to be integrated within the neighborhood . On top of local partnership deals, Sunshine Embassy is going to create the Sunshine Foundation, a non-profit organization that will allow locals with entrepreneurial talent to access the space, community, and events in exchange for a membership. Several key partners are already in talks to sponsor memberships for striving entrepreneurs and the foundation will bridge the gap between residents and locals.
Third, coliving has to be in integrity with overall climate goals. This is why Enedina Gonzalez , entrepreneur from Madrid who runs her own agency focussed on sustainable events and operations called For Planet , joined the project.
“We often tend to forget about the environment, and yet, nature will always be stronger than us. It is our responsibility to take care of it. This is why we are going to compensate for all CO2 emissions due to travel of new residents, implement our own solar and water power, work with the Foundation to contribute to cleaning up the island, and are even thinking about special lights in showers to indicate residents when they consumed more than average.”
And lastly, coliving needs to be adaptable. “One of the key challenges of coliving - and housing in general - is that it is not adaptable: leases have a fixed term, apartment layouts can’t be adapted, and people have to make a binary decision”, says Perdrix. At Sunshine Embassy, members will be able to book several months over the year, and join the space whenever it suits them.
CAN THE MODEL BE REPLICATED?
Setting up a 3.0 coliving space does not sound complicated, yet it’s delicate.
There are a lot of challenges, such as the chicken and egg problem: do you first get the house or the community? How do you make sure that people relate and identify to each other? And how do you build a strong community even if residents are moving in and out?
After visiting 100 different coliving spaces in 2019, Gui Perdrix is currently finalizing his upcoming book, Art of Coliving . “I started this journey because I realized that there is a tension between growth and community. You find great communities in grassroot spaces, great real estate diversity for big players, but barely the combination of both growth and community.”
“As Gui said, those are challenges, but they are solvable. Understanding that community is about aligning people’s needs, understanding that the role of the operator is not to impose but enable culture, and understanding what metrics are to be followed to track the well-being of the community, are crucial. And with our experience, we believe that we found the sweet spot” says Bublay, who herself run the coliving space Startup Embassy in Palo Alto in 2018.
According to the team, the project is replicable, yet the intention is not to grow per se.
“Our goal is to create a home for people you love. We want to optimize for both the health of the community and the viability of the project. We will then optimize for impact and long-term growth - finding viable business models that allow the project to flourish and offer transformative experiences.”
THE FUTURE OF COLIVING
With the opening of borders and traveling, the rise of remote work, and an increased desire to reconnect with oneself, community and nature, Gui Perdrix predicts that the Sunshine Embassy model will be needed around the world.
“We are seeing private individuals, such as us, turning their homes into a coliving space for themselves and their friends, or people they’re aspired by. The problem is that there are only few resources that guide aspiring coliving operators to set up their spaces, so we decided to publish our processes open-source to enable others to create a home with people they love.”
Sunshine Embassy will document all their processes, which will be available on their website . In the months to come, all team members committed to actively support the coliving scene beyond their own space, including offering mentorship and advisory.
But for now, the objective is to open the space. While the core community has almost been set up, Sunshine Embassy will welcome more residents over time and invite locals through the regional membership program. In the meanwhile, aspiring residents can apply at Sunshine Embassy and follow them on Instagram .
The future remains open and will show us the rate of popularity models similar to the one of Sunshine Embassy. Many other spaces follow the same or similar leading principles that allows their project to be both viable and optimized for impact. We now have to decide whether success means to be able to run a coliving space for a year or rather having been open for a decade - and will continue to explore into which direction the coliving movement grows as it organises itself.