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Coronavirus pandemic leads to increased demand for co-living spaces

Sumner Park

A new housing trend for millennials is rising in popularity among students who are being displaced from widespread shutdowns of college campuses due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Co-living, or sharing a communal space with a group of strangers, has proven to be a resilient asset class during the most recent economic downturn. Most co-living complexes are located in highly dense or populated areas, covering the spread of major universities.

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“Most of this demand came from students that didn’t have the opportunity to go home to their families or another location to go to when the campuses closed,” Gregg Christiansen, president of the co-living giant, Ollie, told FOX Business. “It gave accessibility and a seamless transition for a lot of people that were displaced when college campuses closed.”

Companies like Ollie and Starcity, a co-living development that spans San Francisco and the Bay Area, have seen an increase in student occupancy in the buildings that include co-living units ever since shelter-in-place orders and the shutdown of nonessential businesses first went into effect.

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In an economic environment affected by COVID-19, co-living arrangements make an attractive alternative to an average studio apartment where living arrangements are typically 30 percent to 40 percent more expensive, especially for graduate students or young professionals. In fact, the companies' emphasis on social atmospheres allows them to bring a sense of normalcy to people at a time when most are by themselves at home.

Although sharing a kitchen and living space with a group of strangers might seem counterintuitive in a climate of social distancing and hyper-sanitation, many co-living companies have found ways to ensure safety and well-being. Starycity, for example, is offering concessions like housekeeping, access to online workout subscriptions, rent discount incentives and virtual mixology classes to stay connected.

“If you're going to shelter in place during this time, it’s better to do it with a group of people where you can work, can make your sourdough bread together and all that kind of stuff,” Jon Dishotsky, the CEO and co-founder of StarCity, told FOX Business. “Humans always need people to count on, community, and ways to connect, especially during this time.”

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