What is Co-living?
The co-living trend in shared housing is a relatively recent development, largely responding to the extremely high cost of housing in many large cities. Since the big cities tend to be where the good jobs are, many people, frequently young people just getting started, need to move there. But with exorbitant housing costs, it can be pretty difficult. This has been traditionally a primary reason for finding roommates and sharing expenses; the co-living model has emerged as an alternative to the somewhat "hit and miss" approach required of those finding roommates the traditional way.
Although it is a new trend, in many ways "co-living" is simply a modernized and upgraded version of something that has been around for ages, the rooming house or boardinghouse arrangement. Residents would have a private room but would share a common area, especially kitchen and dining areas, with other residents of the house.
Modern co-living operations, such as common.com and pure house.org, are offering a fairly high-end experience to their customers; they are emphasizing convenience and community as big benefits for choosing to live in one of their properties. These are rentals, of course-an alternative to simply renting an apartment or house from a private party or some kind of property management firm. (The cohousing model, discussed below, generally refers to ownership situations, with some shared facilities.)
This type of operation is still a relatively new development, so any apparent trends might change significantly in the future. But as of now (spring of 2017) the co-living operations are apparently targeting relatively affluent young people as their primary market, with most of the operations located in America's big cities, with their fairly positive job opportunities and extremely high housing costs. These operations do not appear to be emphasizing huge financial savings as a result of signing up with them; still, in many cases it appears to be somewhat of an improvement financially. For example, in the New York City housing market it is common for applicants to have to show proven income equal to 40 or 50 times a month's rent. Given the high rents, this can create a pretty formidable barrier, ruling out all but those with fairly high paying jobs. The co-living operations, at least the ones I have researched, do not have this restriction, although they do perform extensive background checks and other things in order to increase the chances of having success with their choices of tenants.
They may not be promoting significant financial savings, at least not so far-but what these operations do promote is a quick and easy cure for one of the biggest problems of a newcomer to a big and presumably unfriendly city: loneliness. By moving into a facility with others, many of whom are presumably in a situation similar to yourself, the possibility exists that you will be able to form friendships and have a functional social life much more quickly than you would with the typical living arrangement. The operations are designed to encourage this: while the rooms offer privacy (for the most part-an exception is discussed below) there is a big emphasis on common areas. Kitchen and dining areas are obviously an important part of this strategy, but additional areas for socializing, reading, working or simply hanging out are also provided.
Many of these operations also utilize electronic services, such as slack or other social media, to communicate with residents, advise them of upcoming activities, and generally provide a convenient way for all to communicate.
The emphasis is really placed on the benefit of being a part of a community rather than being all alone in the big city. This sounds completely valid to me, to the extent that it is successful for any given individual of course. In addition, some of these operations emphasize the benefits of networking, specifically for one's career. This also makes total sense to me, since it is well understood that the quality of an individual's personal network is generally considered to be an important part of their likelihood of success.