While a college dorm room might come to mind when you hear the phrase co-living, that type of shared housing is just one example of what the concept means for both those deep in their studies and career-bound people, too. Co-living is not a new idea, but one that has evolved over many years to include several different ideas and populations. At its core, co-living simply means sharing a space with one or more other people. However, the modern concept encompasses lifestyle choices, socialization, a sense of community, financial aspects and shared resources.

Around the world, different groups have embraced co-living and the reasons seem to be centered around a few general motivating factors.

Related: Cambridge’s first co-housing development fosters sustainable living

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Money

Co-living typically saves money compared to paying all the bills for a house or apartment individually. If you remember sharing an apartment with a roommate, you understand the concept. Splitting bills for utilities and rent is a financially conservative idea, but modern co-living cuts out the need to hassle your roommate for the rent. Instead, many newer co-living opportunities allow you to pay for your space only, as each person rents directly from the management company.

group of people moving boxes in new apartment

Social life

While it does appear that most newly graduated housemates make the choice in order to take advantage of the lower costs, even more people report they are moving toward co-living for the social interaction. This includes singles, married couples without children and older individuals. The advantage of co-living is two-fold in that many responsibilities are shared as far as upkeep, cooking and the like. This allows more time for socializing, which is a major draw for this crowd. In this market, shared spaces can include a kitchen or other social areas such as rec rooms and outdoor gathering spaces. Communities organize events to draw residents together with activities like game night, wine tastings, movie night, dinners and more.

people working in a shared garden

Sustainability

While the co-housing philosophy began as a way to connect people and make better use of space, the idea of sustainable living has moved to the forefront of the co-living concept. A key component to co-living is sharing resources, which is an ideal way to live more sustainably. Many co-living situations encourage community gardens, for example, leading to more helping hands and less waste. Pretty much everything from building materials to yard tools are minimized with shared living spaces. Think two community grills for many people instead of one for each resident, and you’ll see just a small part of the picture.

two friends cooking dinner together

Shared philosophies

Living sustainably is an example of a mindset that those within a co-living situation might share. There are other philosophies that bring people together as well. Religious beliefs, communal living or co-parenting philosophies might bring groups together to find their ideal living situation. For example, single women with children might find that other women in the same situation can help raise their kids together, cook meals and offer a social outlet while still allowing privacy in their own space.

group of friends lounging around together

Urban lifestyle

In many cities, housing is in a state of crisis, motivating a solution in the form of co-housing. Urban co-living situations are often built out of a necessity for resource management and lack of space. Fortunately, the need for affordable living options also fits well with many people seeking that type of living arrangement.

Co-living opportunities exist around the world and in all types of environments. Where one person might be drawn to remote farm living, many find urban living in a shared space ideal for their needs. Frequent travelers, for example, embrace co-living as a way to keep a home base at a low cost and perhaps have a second base in a different urban landscape.

group of friends eating pizza and sitting on a couch

Is co-living for you?

While there are many undeniable advantages in regards to co-living, it’s not for everyone. Some typical disadvantages of this arrangement include small living spaces and sharing a space with strangers. If you are an introvert who doesn’t enjoy a lot of social interaction, this might not be your scene. Then again, perhaps the 3-bedroom urban setting isn’t for you, but the country cabin with a shared garden is.

In a recent study initiated by IKEA, respondents overwhelmingly admitted that they do not want to share space with kids and teens, so unless you’re childless or are able to find a welcoming option, co-housing might not be for you. The key is finding a community that fits your goals, budget and co-living philosophy.

Co-living offers many solutions to the residential, financial and social issues we face today. In a society that has become individualistic and separate, it’s an opportunity to encourage a closer sense of community. While being personally closer helps, it’s really the sense of shared responsibility and philosophies that makes friends out of roommates and family out of community members.

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