We find out how the convenience, community and adaptability of co-living spaces trump typical housing options in Singapore.
The last time I floated the idea of moving out before marriage to my parents, I got a resounding no. That’s just the way it’s always been in Singapore – most of us stay with family until we wed or reach the age of 35. But there’s been a shift in perception in the last few years, with more looking to leave the nest at a young age (married or not). Sure, there are HDBs and condos available for rent, but co-living spaces have become a popular option for those who desire independence. In fact, co-living brand Coliwoo shares that it’s seen the average occupancy rate across its properties rise from 95% to 98% in the past year alone!
Singles and couples have always made up the majority of tenants for co-living spaces in Singapore. But now, small families are becoming a larger part of the deal, as more tenants move in with children in tow. Why is this so, and is co-living becoming the future of housing?
Not just for singles
When you think of co-living, the first image that pops to mind is likely housemates living under the same roof. It’s the perfect recipe for an even mix of socialisation, community and privacy. That’s the exact living circumstances of Margaret and Anthony, who moved into Shang House in Balestier – a co-living space under Figment.
The two were on a hunt for a shorter-term lease, and the beautifully conserved shophouse fit the bill. Think of a large shared living and dining room space with a communal kitchen and six bedrooms. “Co-living entailed us the luxury of experiencing a spacious living area whilst still keeping to our budget for rent,” they say. “Our fellow housemates are relatively international, and it’s been an interesting experience learning about their backgrounds, cultures and shared experiences.”
But while this is the popular template for co-living spaces, operators have seen a demand for housing that caters to more than just singles and couples.
“We see the trend that co-living product offerings will continue to evolve to focus beyond single expats, and onwards to broader audience groups that include local and foreign young couples and families with kids,” says Josh Li, chief real estate officer at Hmlet. This can mean a greater need for spacious rooms or properties with full apartments for rent that offer all the perks of a co-living environment.
Co-living operators are adjusting their offerings to follow suit. Chong Ching Yeng, senior regional marketing manager at Coliwoo, adds that they’ve catered to this trend by building rooms with spacious designs in mind.
“The Loft Queen at Coliwoo Balestier 320 boasts a living-working area on the lower level. It also has a sleeping area on the upper level. This allows for a comfortable stay for couples and small families, as the rooms are similar to a studio apartment,” he says.
This demand stems from the realisation that co-living provides tenants with benefits outside of typical housing options. Things like flexible lease terms, affordability, convenience and community – essentially, all the right ingredients needed to raise and build a family home in Singapore.
A no-frills, no-fuss environment
The Hensons live as a happy family of four with their son and a dog at Hmlet Hamilton. They’re waiting for the completion of their HDB flat renovations and needed a place to move in and settle down quickly. “We needed somewhere that would provide us with sufficient privacy. And of course, one that would also accept our large dog,” they share.
A co-living space at Hmlet was the perfect location for them. Instead of sharing a house with other flatmates, the Hensons reside in a full two-bedroom apartment. This includes one master room, one junior master room, living room amenities and a fully-equipped kitchen.
“Honestly, we’ve heard many a passerby utter, “Oh, this is a hostel”. Whenever we hear this, there’s this desire to retort that this isn’t a hostel. We personally don’t feel this is a co-living space either,” they say. “We’ve got our own apartment, a smart TV and amenities. As a family living with just ourselves in that space, it’s like living in a serviced apartment when on vacation.”
“The term co-living gives off the impression that everything has to be shared. There’s the view that the space is small and has a lack of privacy and personal space. However, this can’t be further from the truth,” Ng Kah Fa says. He and his wife Elizabeth and young daughter stay at a co-living space in Coliwoo Balestier 320. They’ve made their home in the Queen Loft, a pre-furnished two-level loft with ample space.
“There’s also a dedicated working area that allows my wife and I to work from home with ease. Plus, Coliwoo has a dedicated team that caters to our ad-hoc requests on an always-on basis. Weekly housekeeping is the icing on the cake for us. Everything is included in the membership fee.”
Everything from basic necessities to cleaning is taken care of in a co-living space. This frees up room for couples and small families to focus on important things like family time and hobbies. Ching Yeng shares that co-living spaces are also surprisingly more cost-effective for families, especially with rising rental prices in Singapore.
“Opting for a co-living space in key locations such as Singapore’s CBD can be more affordable, averaging at $2,500 – $1,000 lesser in comparison to renting an apartment of the same size and location.”
The success of co-living spaces lies in their ability to adapt
Space and convenience are part of what makes co-living spaces the housing option of the future. But what really sets them apart is the ability to adapt to how we live, work and play. In the last two years, we’ve seen co-living spaces tackle new needs brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. They’ve done two things well: built a sense of community in a time where social interactions are limited; and provided communal spaces for individuals to work when hybrid working has become the norm.
Member-exclusive events give tenants the opportunity to be part of a close-knit community of like-minded individuals. At Hmlet, members can participate in a “Getting to Know” event facilitated by the crew. Coliwoo members can also partake in group activities like wine appreciation workshops. This makes it easy for them to build relationships and familiarise themselves with neighbours and housemates.
“As buyers are more receptive to the ‘live-work-play’ concept, people are happier living in a neighbourhood that provides for most of their needs. They can enjoy the ease of living near their workplaces, amenities and recreational spots,” Ching Yeng says.
At Coliwoo, members can work at communal lounges and use the space to network. This is especially useful for expats who are new to Singapore and looking to make connections. Plus, tenants with children won’t need to worry about finding an appropriate place to work from home. That’s something those who live in a condominium or serviced apartment might not have the luxury of doing.
Housing needs may continue to change and evolve, but co-living spaces in Singapore have the ability to adapt to individuals, couples, and small families. That makes their future look bright.