Key Takeaways


Takeaways from Does Co-Living Threaten the U.S. Housing Market?

  • Watch out: Co-living is coming to a city near you. Group living, a trend that has been building informally for decades, is gaining steam thanks to new co-living spaces that promise all the perks of dorm life with few of the drawbacks. While these spaces conjure up images of Millennials, it’s not just the younger set driving co-living to new heights: Many Boomers are also flocking to intentional communities that offer them valuable physical and emotional support. Co-living, however, is deflationary for a housing sector that was already set to struggle with lower long-term demand brought on by demographic aging.
  • Keep in mind that formalized co-living is a bicoastal phenomenon. A look at the heat map of co-living spaces across the world shows that, in the United States, these residences are heavily concentrated on either coast. Why? Economic reasons are the primary driver: Co-living has the greatest appeal in regions where desirability and stringent zoning laws combine to make prices unaffordable. It’s no accident that there is significant overlap between co-living regions and the cities where a high share of Millennials live at home. Because these happen to be blue-zone areas, it has lent co-living a distinct blue-zone flavor. (Think of Zuckerberg-esque “hacker houses” that dot the Silicon Valley landscape.)
  • Look for co-living to provide relief to an overburdened senior care system. With roughly 10,000 Boomers turning 65 every day, America is bracing for a caregiver shortage. AARP reports that, in 2010, there were 7.2 potential caregivers for each person over age 80; by 2030, that ratio is poised to drop to 4:1. But co-living could help. The Cohousing Association seeks to ease the burden by creating both senior-centric and multigenerational co-living communities. (The association’s directory lists 13 move-in ready residences, along with 13 more on the way.) These spaces not only provide seniors with the care they need, but also with a strong social support system that many lack.
  • Expect Millennial-bashers to set their sights on the co-living movement.Depictions of co-living are replete with Millennial stereotypes—20-somethings playing vintage board games, building terrariums, and drinking wine. One article marvels that, “In the ‘90s, We Had ‘Friends.’ Now They Call It Co-Living.” (Indeed, Xer “friends” lived in separate apartments, while Millennial co-livers live together.) Critics likely see co-living as a fad that will pass once Millennials grow up—an expectation that adds a degree of shame for Millennial renters. But by and large, the Millennials who choose to live in such arrangements are doing so out of economic necessity, their desire for community, or both.