With house prices in the capital beyond the reach of many young buyers - enterprising developers are championing a new model of ownership, with sharing at its heart. Stephen Penn finds out more

Visit any town or city in the UK today and the property landscape has changed beyond recognition; the ‘home-sweet-home’ balance of power perceptibly shifting towards a more transitory ‘rent for now’ culture.

By 2021, almost one in four households in Britain will be renting privately, as soaring house prices and stagnant wages put home ownership out of the reach of growing numbers of would-be buyers.

A high percentage of this disenfranchised group are young professionals - highly-resourceful, tech-minded Generation Ys; a much-maligned demographic, yet one that is shaping the future of how we live more than we could imagine. The latest national statistics reveal that more than 8.7 million people live in London alone, despite the limited living space available – the net result has shunted prices higher and higher yet, without a corresponding shift in the quality of accommodation.

But now there’s a fresh and innovative alternative coming into play – a much-needed option in the context of the capital’s housing crisis - co-living.

At one time, this option was just a staple for student life but after a number of enterprising companies and developers spotted a gap in the market, the growth potential for co-living has never looked more promising, or more exciting. One such initiator is Shazz Bhunnoo, who has been part of the co-living movement since 2006 with the launch of his company, Spaces.

From a room rental flatshare beginning, Shazz has fine-tuned the concept and is now working on his first purpose-built high-rise to accommodate co-living.

He explains: “The biggest misunderstanding about co-living is people think it’s a totally new craze. It’s not. People have been living with roommates for decades. What we’re doing is taking this set-up and making it better. Home should be a nurturing base, an empowering community, but we’ve found in the major cities that young millennials are disengaged with society, there’s almost a complete disconnect with their fellow human beings. Co-living allows us to recreate that community spirit, while re-introducing affordability into central city areas, along with high quality for less as facilities are shared.”

Space’s London Bridge scheme will have around 170 rooms in one tower – around 25 on each floor – with large communal spaces for people to socialise.

“We’re aiming to recreate the community spirit of times gone by,” he explains. “Civilizations used to live together like this; in the old villages in South America and the rooftop slums of Hong Kong.

“We’re using this core idea of togetherness. We want every floor to feel like you’re walking into an apartment – right into the inner core social sanctum.”

Shazz, who intends to have an additional 10,000 homes in his portfolio over the next five years, adds: “Each apartment will be high-end with well-appointed kitchens and bathrooms, as opposed to the tiny kitchenettes and en-suites you would have if you were in a flat of your own. This style of living offers more home comfort for your money – a lifestyle level that’s hard to achieve without a significant financial outlay.”

It’s a movement that’s captured the interest of several enterprising development companies, including The Collective which launched the world's largest co-living building, The Collective Old Oak, in May 2016, offering 550 rooms in London.

Reza Merchant, company CEO, explains: “We’re offering a solution that will enable young professionals based in the capital, to live well, enjoy themselves and meet like-minded people. Co-living creates a genuine sense of community alongside access to many more amenities than you could expect from a basic flat-share.”

Also taking full advantage of this transition in the way we live is Stuart Scott of Brighton-based firm Co-Living Spaces. Stuart and his team aim to disrupt the HMO market and re-imagine shared living for millennials - while creating amazing social spaces that foster collaboration, inspire creativity and build social community.

The spaces feature a range of facilities such as cafe's, co-working spaces, cinema rooms, roof terraces - all complete with an urban styling. "Our Co-Living Spaces are setting new standards for shared living and are achieving some of the highest rental in the local market," says Stuart. "We spotted a gap in the market to create a new shared living product that was designed specifically for the millennial market. Our customer centric approach blends both brand, marketing and product design to create a new concept in shared living for Brighton & Hove.

Other companies, including Roam, are also carving out a niche, while others, such as iQSA, are taking the lifestyle model further afield with the first scheme of its kind recently launched in Manchester.

iQSA’s choice of city is a wise one. With a growing student population currently at 60,000, and with half of those staying on after graduation; Manchester has the largest regional millennial and qualified population in the UK. “As the size and demand of the rental population in Manchester has grown, average rents have risen steeply, making it harder for young people who contribute so much to the city to live centrally,” says Rob Roger, Chief Executive of iQSA.

iQSA’s inaugural project, Echo Street, will be a co-living complex with fully-furnished apartments, best in class amenity spaces and 24/7 security and management. Adds Roger: “Its a development addressing a real need – you could label it a template for millennial living.”

Adds Shazz: “Anything that brings more housing to the market in an incredibly housing crunched city is a positive thing. We’re only too delighted to be at the sharp-end, helping to shape the future of home-ownership for generations to come.”

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