Millennials are notorious for moving around. We job-hop like no other generation in history, partly due to economic realities outside our control. Where 18% of the total workforce switches jobs every 1-3 years, 42% of Millennials do.

Switching jobs often comes with switching cities, and that comes with switching housing. It's rare to find the Millennial that hasn't spent hours scouring Craigslist for that perfect place to live: the right price, the right location, the right people.

The fact is, it's nearly impossible to find that perfect option, which is part of why so many Millennials are turning to a new kind of housing: co-living.

Co-living houses are like dorms for adults--communal housing, mostly for young people. And while the word "communal" can conjure images of patchouli-smelling hippie communes with kitchens full of tempeh and quinoa, the new co-living places are a far cry from that. Many are beautiful, modern, and chic, with the added advantage of being built specifically for co-living, so the amenities make sense (i.e. extra soundproofing, larger and better-equipped kitchens, inviting common areas).

Common, for example, a co-living company based in NYC, has 13 homes in cities across the U.S., including New York, DC, Chicago, and San Francisco. Their Head of Design, Sophie Wilkinson, is committed to creating environments that both support social events and member bonding, and give members beautiful private rooms that feel spacious and stylish.

There are several reasons Millennials are flocking to co-living. First, it's cheaper than living alone, and just as cost-effective as getting a shared room in an apartment.

Second, it gives you built-in community. Instead of watching Netflix alone, you can join the debate in the kitchen about which is less obnoxious, Tinder or Bumble; or watch Game of Thrones with fellow members; or take your guitar to the fire pit and jam with the other musicians in the house.

The community has the added advantage of not being the same as your work circle. When you move to a new city, it's only too easy for coworkers to become your only friends. Not only is it challenging to manage office friendships, but it can also be hard to stop talking about work.

At first, San Francisco Common resident Kevin Suh thought the other residents would all work at startups like him, and talk in the hallways would revolve around Silicon Valley. But he was surprised--the community was genuinely diverse. Now, he says, "Some of these people in this home are my best friends."

It turns out co-living is good business, too. Common's vacancy rate is less than 1%, and every building is cash-flow positive. Those who move in don't seem to want to leave anytime soon, either. The renewal rate for traditional multi-family units is 58%; Common's rate is 72%. (Bonus: once you're in a Common home, you can relocate to another one in a different city.)

In fact, the challenge for co-living is more of supply than demand. Common gets over 3,000 applications monthly for just 375 beds. They're growing rapidly, along with other co-living companies like WeLive and HubHaus.

Numbers like those have the wider housing industry starting to sit up and take notice. Major developer Property Markets Group (PMG) is busy building 3,500 co-living style units in NYC, Chicago, and Miami.

According to their director of brand and tenant experiences, the impetus for such a large investment was evaluating social trends: "[W]hat's the product that makes the most sense for modern young professionals? People are more transient, they have a lot of debt, people are moving to cities and want to own less . . . there's a shift in values toward experience over ownership."

As a generation, Millennials do value experience over ownership. We care less about owning a brand-name purse or watch and more about having an epic experience, like backpacking through Southeast Asia. When it comes to housing, it's less about what it looks like on the outside and more about what it feels like on the inside.

Plus, there's a deeper reason to value arrangements like co-living: returning to group living.

As the effects of climate change continue to make themselves felt (through aggressive storms, etc), we're becoming increasingly aware of just how fundamentally we're going to need to shift the way we live.

The more we build, create, and curate spaces that cater to many people living together and sharing resources, the better. We're not always going to be able to afford a lifestyle where everyone gets to live alone, heating and cooling entire houses at the cost of the collective.

And there's a reason humans lived in small, tight-knit tribes for most of our existence. Something was lost when the standard became nuclear families in isolated homes in the suburbs. There's annoyance, yes, that comes from living with others, but there's also more spontaneity, more vitality, more aliveness.

In the end, it's the mess of being around each other that has us grow.

Published on: Sep 28, 2017