Aoife Rooney explains the idea and intentions behind the proposed co-living schemes in Dublin.
The term ‘co-living’ has deep roots in the history of the changing familial unit; the nuclear family, the industrial revolution, the rise of nomadic culture, and popularization of hippie lifestyles. More recently, co-living is described as a community living model wherein residents have a private ensuite room, and shared living space encompassing a kitchen and living room. This concept first saw experimentation and success in the United States in major cities such as New York, and later in London. This living set-up is seeing success and growth in many more countries, and the international surge in interest has sparked conversations in Dublin city also.
The model has been met with consternation among residents of localities where co-living spaces are proposed and among renters in general. In many places across Dublin where a co-living development is set to go ahead, such as the Liberties, people feel that this type of living is not suitable. They argue that co-living is not suited to the geographic location or in-keeping with the residents of the area. This concern stems from already pressurised transport systems and services such as schools and GPs, which do not need the large population influx a densely packed co-living scheme would bring. On a larger scale, many criticisms stem from the more visible economic consequences - the inflation of housing prices and land value. The comparative rental price is also an unattainable alternative to traditional renting for many young professionals who would be considered the target market for this type of living. The starting price in most schemes begins at €1,200 per month. This is cause for concern as it may be a barrier to many young people attempting to begin saving for mortgage deposits, and with this type of accommodation more financially attractive to developers in comparison to more traditional apartments, it provides a concerning precedent for squashing as many small co-living units onto a site as possible to maximise profits.
The concept has been likened to student accommodation on campuses and in other privately owned schemes across the city. The main difference as to why the model works so much better for a student is that the student has very different needs and priorities than a presumably older, more professionally minded tenant might have. For example, it is often seen that housing occupied by students understandably gets into a state of untidiness and disarray soon after the semester begins. Young people living away from home are going to exercise their new privilege of freedom, and many students who end up living together have different standards of tidiness. In contrast, young professionals working could thrive in a house or apartment where they are responsible for the unit or house with other housemates.
While co-living blocks are typically equipped with outdoor areas, a space of your own has never been more valuable. While there is a definite argument for the social aspect of this type of living, this only works if tenants get along. If they don’t, it could make for less than comfortable evenings in the communal space, often shared with up to eight people. Throughout the time spent in college accommodation, there will always be housemates people get on with less than others. Between going home for weekends, going out and other social activities, students find themselves spending less time in their accommodation. This is to be compared to a person in a co-living building who might have spent their day remotely working in their room and now wants to spend time relaxing in front of the television or cooking dinner. This time spent at home can be negatively underscored by the presence of a housemate that someone had no choosing in living with.
It is difficult to see the long-term merit in the large scale roll-out of co-living as a viable lifestyle choice for young people. However, the international success of the scheme begs to differ, with the concept flourishing in cosmopolitan cities across the world. Dublin is an attractive site for these dwellings with so many tech companies sowing roots in the city, but it should not be at the cost of the uncontrollable sprouting up of jam-packed co-living accommodation, like weeds stealing precious sunlight from some of Dublin’s beautifully historic and traditional structures.