The Evolution of Co-living Spaces in the UK


Brian Fox
Brian Fox

by Brian Fox

In a time of shifting work schedules, urbanisation, and lifestyle changes, co-living spaces have become a popular alternative to traditional housing, dramatically altering the residential market in the United Kingdom (UK). This article examines the emergence of co-living spaces, their attractiveness to a wide range of consumers, and their significant effects on the national housing market. 

What is co-living? 

Co-living spaces are a contemporary take on community living, where people share facilities, living quarters, and common areas. These areas encourage convenience, teamwork, and a feeling of community while providing an alternative to conventional living arrangements.  

Property expert Walter Soriano says, “Co-living spaces appeal to individuals desiring a balance between privacy and social interaction, flexibility, as well as affordability.” 

As a matter of fact, co-living is huge in popularity and certainly on the rise in the UK. “Co-living is the new buzzword in the property development industry and is becoming increasingly popular in the UK due to its social and sustainable aspects. Co-living is a new way of living perfect for millennials, students and young professionals. Co-living is connected to Build to Rent and is a segment of it.”1 

Appeal to Diverse Populations 

A wide range of groups, such as pensioners, students, young professionals, and digital nomads, are drawn to co-living places. Co-living provides young professionals with easy access to major cities, networking opportunities, and a hassle-free living environment.

Shared resources, a friendly environment, and reasonably priced housing are all advantageous to students. Impressively, “On average, residents within co-living spaces decrease their carbon footprint by a whopping 35%.”2 

According to Walter, “Co-living spaces offer a diverse array of living arrangements that suit the unique needs as well as tastes of different demographic groups, promoting inclusivity and diversity.” 

Further support comes from Savills, an established homebuilder in the UK, which stated that “Co-living schemes are now becoming established in London, through developments such as The Collective in Canary Wharf, Folk in Battersea and Enclavein Croydon.

It’s also beginning to find its feet in other cities. There are 2,500 beds soon to complete in Manchester, Watkin Jones & Moda are preparing schemes in Leeds with Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Sheffield, Newcastle, Cardiff, Nottingham and Bristol all having  a growing pipeline of projects coming through, which is encouraging to see.”3 

Nevertheless, Savills points out certain challenges associated with co-living spaces, which are important to be noted. Thus, “While there are circa 4,000 operational co-living units, we believe there’s potential demand from 1,900,00 tenants (600,000 in London alone). There’s a few factors slowing supply: the market is still very much nascent, and has a smaller footprint relative to sectors like hotels, PBSA and Build to Rent, which are also competing for land.

Planning permissions can be hard to secure which also delays development. There are currently 7,300 beds at the planning application stage and another 9,700 with planning consent, demonstrating more development is coming, but maybe not quick enough. Use class is also a debate, testing viability for purpose built shared living as C1 or Sui Generis use.”4 

Community and Cooperation 

Nevertheless, a spirit of cooperation and community is important to co-living environments. Residents are encouraged to engage in spontaneous encounters, cultural exchanges, and group experiences through the use of shared kitchens, lounges, and recreational facilities.  

As Walter makes clear, “co-living facilities foster a feeling of community and support among inhabitants, who share responsibilities, commemorate life events, and develop deep connections. It’s a way of living that, in an increasingly digital environment, places a premium on interpersonal relationships.” 

Flexibility and Convenience 

When it comes to lease terms, facilities, and services, co-living spaces provide tenants with unmatched flexibility and convenience. With fully equipped apartments, all utilities included, and on-site management, tenants can live hassle-free without having to worry about long-term leases or domestic duties.  

As Walter stated, “The flexible nature of co-living spaces attracts individuals desiring mobility, convenience, as well as a sense of belonging in a transient world.” 

Effect on the Real Estate Market 

The emergence of co-living spaces poses a huge challenge to traditional homeownership and rental accommodation arrangements, hence having profound effects on the housing sector.  

Walter indicates that “Co-living spaces blur the lines between the rental and hospitality sectors, introducing new dynamics into the housing market. They provide developers with chances to improve site use, enhance property profits, and satisfy changing customer demands.” 

Additionally, co-living spaces support urban regeneration initiatives by bringing lively people into urban districts and revitalising underutilised assets.  

Further, according to Walter, “By reusing existing buildings and converting them into dynamic living environments, co-living spaces help the adaptive reuse of urban spaces, encouraging sustainability and rejuvenating urban landscapes.” 

Correspondingly, it also ought to be observed that co-living will further be embraced considering the housing crisis currently experienced in the UK. To illustrate and validate, “The housing crisis is showing no sign of abating and with rents in the UK at their highest since the Office for National Statistics began recording them in 2016 and the increasing standard of living costs, the younger generation is finding it harder than ever to find suitable properties to rent or buy as their first home.

Co-living emerged in response to the increasing urbanisation and housing shortages in major UK cities. The concept offers young residents a more affordable and flexible way to live in the heart of the city. Research according to Savills shows that activity in this sector has nearly tripled since 2019 with the number of co-living beds in the UK (existing or proposed) totalling 25,021. 

Companies such as The Collective, WeLive, and The Student Hotel have entered the UK market, while local startups like Node and Common have gained prominence. These players have invested significantly in creating diverse co-living spaces that cater to different segments of the millennial population, ranging from students to working professionals.”5 


In summary, co-living spaces have evolved to represent a fundamental shift in housing paradigms brought about by shifting society values, habits, and demographics. As these shared living options become more and more common in the UK, they are redefining what it means to be at home and promoting connectedness, community, and teamwork in a world where people are getting more apart.

Co-living spaces encourage variety, adaptability, and creativity, which opens the door to a more diverse, sustainable, and dynamic housing market in the future.