- Co-Living, better with strangers than with family
We continue our chat with Irene Pereyra, co-author of the documentary, who grew up in a co-living environment in Amsterdam in the 1980s. We asked her to tell us about her experience, and also about whether the property market is responding to these new forms of living. You can see the documentary called One Shared House on the web and you can even take a test to see how predisposed you are towards co-living. The results are displayed in real time in infographic form. Here is the second part of the interview.
Q: It seems that people actually love sharing almost everything but have some problems with the bathroom – a very critical issue for peaceful coexistence even in a traditional family...
A: It’s funny, in my experience sharing a toilet and bathroom was never a problem, but the area that was always the most contested was the kitchen. Kitchens get dirty quite quickly and since people have different levels of what they would consider “clean”, most of the arguments in our house were about that. Perhaps this was something that was unique to our house, since most people who answered the survey at the end of the documentary said they would indeed not be comfortable sharing a bathroom, and way more people said they would happily share a kitchen. Perhaps the people who answered the documentary remember what it was like to grow up in a big family where the bathroom was always the war zone, or maybe they just don’t cook that much! Haha!
Q: But perhaps we are more open and friendly with strangers than with our relatives as regards co-living because we don't expect as much. What do you think? Or is the ultimate solution a "multi-room each with private bath" kind of co-living? What is the trend in NYC?
A: I think you are right. Different dynamics are at play when you are living with strangers, and you do tend to feel more responsible in making sure you are pulling your weight than perhaps you would be with your immediate family. Also, it’s a self-selecting crowd of course. People who are interested in co-living are naturally more willing to make concessions in these areas. In New York City companies like Common, Founder House, and WeLive offer fully furnished apartments with shared kitchens, bathrooms, and common areas, and they can barely keep up with the demand. It’s a growing phenomenon and even The New Yorker devoted an entire article to the rise of co-living start-ups in May 2016. The thing to keep in mind though is that these start-ups cater specifically to millennials and you don’t see entire families living in them.
Q: Another question is about the management of these co-living spaces - are landlords ready for these new forms of living? Is there any official support to create such spaces?
A: The co-living houses in New York City today are privately owned, and are being run like start-up companies. There are investors and they are meant to make a profit. With so many traditional services being “disrupted” by technology (like Uber is doing with taxis, or Spotify is doing with the music industry), there is also a financial incentive as there is money to be made if you handle things smartly. My house however, was not for profit at all. It was able to exist purely because Amsterdam City Council forced developers to make sure that 1% of all new construction was specifically built for the purpose of co-living. The people who lived in our house were not making very much money, and were all otherwise eligible for public housing. A lawyer, or doctor, or someone who would fall into a higher income bracket would not have been able to live in our house. In a perfect world I would like to see a happy medium between the two. Co-living is something that should be a viable alternative to anyone, not just for the low-income bracket or millennials with high paying jobs.
Case Study: http://work.antonandirene.com/onesharedhouse
Images: courtesy by Anton & Irene