I guess I should start off by saying that I had my very own coliving space for 2.5 years. It was small, but I would consider it my MVP into the industry of coliving. I attained superhost status and consistently ran a “successful” business. I don’t run that business anymore but I have been staying in coliving spaces since then and at the time of writing this I am currently staying in a coliving space.
Coliving impacts many people. Not only does it impact the residents themselves, but it also impacts the neighborhoods where they are located. Their mere presence impacts people far and wide.
What I want to do here is talk about the downsides to coliving. This is the anti-coliving argument. Here are 16 downsides to coliving:
- First of all, exclusivity runs deep in coliving. In my experience, I’ve noticed that coliving spaces have a very particular barrier to entry. Most of the time, the barrier to entry is mostly financial and people without much money can’t live there. There are other barrier to entries, the next one being the language that the people speak there. Depending on where the coliving space is located, you’re going to notice that one language usually prevails. It can be frustrating to live in a coliving space where everyone around you is speaking a language you don’t understand.
Humans are emotional creatures and the thing about coliving is that you’re going to be dealing with humans and subsequently their very irrational emotional outbursts. These can happen at any time over anything in any number of ways. Something as simple as dirty dishes can trigger a resident to throw a fit, just because they’re having a bad day. The most difficult thing about this is that if a crew member doesn’t handle the situation then it will only get worse. That crew member will likely incur some emotional trauma, as is normal. That is part of the job.
Locals are affected too. Most of the time, coliving spaces attract travelers. Also known as digital nomads, the locals will start experiencing some unfortunate effects of increased demand in local real estate. When more people move into a city, the prices for pretty much everything slowly goes up. This is only exacerbated by the fact that many coliving spaces can attract people with more disposable income than the locals. People with more disposable income will be willing to pay more for goods and services so prices will slowly creep up in every industry. This is usually a trend that a growing city goes through. Local residents may even be priced out of their neighborhood and be forced to move out of the city due to rising living costs.
Residents of coliving tend to stick around for a while. Depending on the coliving space, a resident can end up staying for more than you might expect from a foreigner in your country. Imagine the picture where a foreigner is walking around your city, stuck in their own bubble, and they don’t even speak the local language. One day, they’re going to need something from a local market and they won’t even be able to ask for the basic things in life like bread or butter.
It’s important to note that coliving is not for everyone. In fact, it is only for a very small percentage of people. Most people are simply not qualified in some way or another. They are probably reliant on some form of help or support and it doesn’t make sense logistically. Maybe they’re simply comfortable and don’t want to make the change of going to a coliving space. Since coliving means interacting with other humans, a resident needs to be sociable. They should be able to interact normally with other humans and communicate like normal people do. People who are used to being isolated will struggle with coliving spaces. These people usually come with habits, routines, or rituals that are not very compatible with coliving spaces. Sometimes, you can encounter people who will be a bad influence in one way or another. A resident will need to know how to understand this eventuality and handle it accordingly. This isn’t something that everyone can do.
There is potential that coliving could very well increase your cost of living. When living in a coliving space, it is more tempting to take on the habits of those around you. This can include their spending habits. It may even be more logistically difficult to reduce your expenses. Some coliving spaces don’t have the local infrastructure to allow one effectively to do their own shopping and cooking. Shopping can be relatively more difficult if you’re used to cars transporting everything for you. It can be quite the burden to carry around heavy bags of groceries, especially when you also need to shop for other people.
Germs can spread more easily. Since coliving means that you’ll be interacting with more people, you are also more likely to spread germs. Imagine you’re sitting around at the dinner table and you’re just having a few drinks with some residents. The proximity in that scenario is definitely not social distancing approved.
You might take the brunt of others’ blunders. Maybe someone left their milk slightly open and it drips all over your food. Maybe someone didn’t close the fridge all the way and now the freezer is water. Maybe someone spilled water on some slippery floor and you take a tumble. It is an inevitability that you will be the unlucky individual with the short stick at some point.
The whole idea with coliving is that it’s supposed to make it easy to move in and out. It’s supposed to be a more low-commitment option to living. Sometimes, it ends up being more of a hassle. Maybe the new apartment hasn’t been cleaned in ages and you have no cleaning equipment to do it yourself. Maybe the insulation is terrible and you have to pay a ton for heating. For whatever reason, you may find yourself having to deal with an unpleasant scenario and it might not be worth it to take the long term solution. Speaking of long term…
You might be tempted to see things from a short term perspective. It is quite common practice for coliving residents to hop from one coliving space to another. As a result, they may face some international restrictions and be allowed to stay for only up to 90 days at a time. When a resident knows this, they look at things from a very short term perspective. In the short term, some decisions would simply make more sense if a more long term approach was taken. Not only will this affect the way you make decisions but it will influence how you interact with other people. You might end up communicating more bluntly, where someone often ends up feeling a bit uncomfortable. You don’t care that you speak your mind, you’re leaving soon anyway.
Once you encounter enough people, you might end up feeling a sort of “indifference” when interacting with new people. The novelty of meeting a new person loses its appeal and you slowly become more robotic with the people that come and go in your life. The people around you end up being a revolving door of humans in your life without enough consistency. You stop asking people how long they’re staying in the city.
Some things are not up to your standards. It can be incredibly frustrating when you spend lots of time in a place and there are some things that aren’t done well around you. Maybe you’re a clean freak and there is a bunch of dust in the common space. Maybe you’re a designer and the colors clash. Whatever the reason, you may encounter something that simply grinds your gears each and every day.
Expectations can be all wrong. Just like getting cat-fished, the pictures online can tell a whole different story. Maybe the pictures were beautiful but they intentionally left out some really ulgy parts of the experience. You expect one thing and when you encounter reality it is so different that you just lose your mind.
It is like gambling with your accommodation. If you’re into gambling and taking these kinds of risks, coliving is kind of like doing that with a very large part of your life. You spend a very large percentage of your time in the building where you sleep so making a commitment based on something you saw online can be quite risky. As mentioned before with expectations, maybe the real experience is so different that your bet doesn’t pay off.
You may be tempted to make a more long term commitment, but you just can’t stay for whatever reason. Maybe you have to go visit your family for the holidays or your visa restrictions limit your stay. For whatever reason, you may have to simply leave and you know that you won’t come back for a while. You may have become attached to the place and you don’t want to leave. You are thinking about the future and how you’re going to leave behind something that you just started getting attached to. You just spent so much time developing connections with these people and then you leave it all behind. It is tempting to just sever ties with these people and these places, maybe interacting with them again just opens up old wounds. Maybe you just got into a good exercise routine at the local gym and now you’ve got to build that up again in a new place.
You have to deal with a problem that you simply did not have before. Maybe the air quality is simply worse than what you’re used to or the internet infrastructure sucks. What used to be a non-issue in the past is now a daily struggle.
Whether coliving is more good than bad is another argument. I hope that my anti-coliving argument helped provide you with valuable insight from this perspective.