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Discussing coliving concepts at the World Urban Forum in Katowice

Shared living the cities of tomorrow: Driving innovation, impact and change through specialist real estate assets.

Authors: Aitana de Jong, Matt Lesniak & Bart Sasim, Co-Founders & Managing Partners, Coliving Ventures

As we observe a huge demand for modern living concepts in the major Polish cities, inspired by the global movements in PRS / BTR sectors, the supply is still relatively low compared to other European countries. There is a great untapped potential in the specialist real estate sector and Poland is becoming an increasingly attractive target for mainly international investors. Polish cities have both space and appetite for such investments. Among other benefits of shared living are the contribution to a better life in the city and talent attraction.

However, at the moment, what is already the norm in the West, is not yet so popular among domestic real estate investors in Poland. The reason is usually the lack of knowledge and experts in this field, which results in the lack of high quality housing products. Lack of experience in programming, architecture, development and commercialisation of shared living assets is an obstacle to innovate and create modern spaces prepared for generations to come.

To break down the knowledge barrier, Coliving Ventures organises a series of events happening during 11th World Urban Forum in June in Katowice with the aim of transferring knowledge about alternative sectors (or ‘specialist real estate’, a term increasingly used in the Continental Europe) to the Polish market players. Although specialist real estate is not strictly defined, it usually refers to the shared living segments such as BTR, coliving, student housing, micro living, senior living and hybrid-hospitality.

To fulfil the burning need to increase the amount of high quality living products in Poland through closer international collaboration and knowledge transfer, in this article we bring insights from the working field of Coliving Ventures – world’s first venture dedicated to accelerating the growth and consolidation of coliving based in Amsterdam – and talk about their upcoming initiatives.

What is shared living and why is it important?
We as real estate professionals need to align our strategies and activities with global goals to secure net-zero in our industry by mid-century and ensure climate mitigation and adaptation are at the core of all that we do. That said, we believe shared living is one of the specialist real estate industries with the largest potential for long-term impact and sustainability.

Shared living can be considered as an umbrella typology for multiple specialist residential real estate classes, including coliving / PBSL, student housing / PBSA, build-to-rent / BTR cohousing, hybrid hospitality, senior housing and other forms of communal living.

All of these sectors cater to a variety of demographics and psychographics and the needs and interests of their stakeholders must be considered from the start of the ideation and design phases.

In a majority of shared living offers, many operators are providing the ‘3 C’s of Coliving’: ‘community, convenience and cost (or affordability)’. Layers of amenities and services are combined with fully furnished accomodations and accessible communities for people of all walks of life to join. In addition, these typologies also inherently have aspects of sustainability anchored into the core of their brands.

Delivering on social value as shared living businesses
As they say, “talk is cheap”; shared living brands must not only tout about their community ethos, but also reflect deeply on how the inherent values of these typologies can be embedded throughout the investment, planning, design, development and operations phases. They must ensure that social value – or environmental, economic and social impact – is at the core of their strategies and is reflected throughout all aspects of the business. Social value must also be something that is equally distributed amongst all stakeholders; the social value your business provides must also be shared value.

Many shared living operators are already delivering on social value, mostly social and economic value (with relatively affordable rental rates and strong social environments and connections to local neighbourhoods). Add in the fact that living in community can help decrease consumption and waste through the sharing of space and resources, shared living operators seemingly touch on all three aspects of social value, including environmental impact.

So how else can shared living brands deliver on these promises? As the sector evolves and expansions, administrations, bankruptcies, mergers and acquisitions occur, we need a shared agenda for bringing these typologies together in sustainable and community-driven ways. This will require strong collaborations and resource / knowledge sharing between market players to ensure that primary and secondary stakeholders – residents, local communities, cities, governments and our planet – are put at the core of industry decision making, standards and strategies.

Our vision for shared living therefore embeds impact, sustainability, experience, community, technology and wellbeing at the core of the shared living model, and it includes the following principles:

Impact & Sustainability:

In regards to real estate and shared living, impact and sustainability can be considered as the environmental, social and economic value that developments contribute to wider society (aka social value). Social value and ESG approaches should be applied throughout the entirety of a building’s life cycle, from design to construction to operations, in order to consider how our buildings positively impact local communities, economies and environments.

User & Community Experience (UCX):

After over a year of social isolation and quarantining becoming the norm, we need to vouch even stronger for a return to community and authentic connection. The potential of shared living developments will be defined by its streamlined operations, digital transformations, sustainable and natural design, but most importantly by the flourishing of their communities. This means embedding user and community experience at the core of the shared living business model.

Health & Wellbeing:

The impact of the built environment on our (and the planet’s) health and wellbeing is enormous, and it is our responsibility as shared living professionals to ensure high quality, healthy and happy homes. Throughout the investment, development, design and operations phases we must ensure the health and wellbeing of our communities and wider stakeholders are considered and supported.

With these principles in mind, it is crucial that multi-stakeholder ecosystems of shared living professionals and businesses collaborate to foster economically, socially and environmentally sustainable shared living ventures that are both impact-driven and financially viable.

Ultimately it comes down to this: measuring what we treasure! In order to deliver on this collective agenda, we know it must be embedded throughout our investments, strategies, activities, designs and communities; we must put in place structures and processes (e.g. KPIs) to make ourselves accountable to our shareholders and wider stakeholders.

By delivering on strong ESG strategies, shared living brands can ensure their initiatives are aligned with global sustainability and climate change goals, financially viable and stakeholder-driven.

Stakeholder-driven real estate
Ultimately, shared living spaces have the potential to be neighbourhood hubs, places that exchange, deliver and contribute a multitude of different ‘community capitals’; such as economic, social, cultural, human, natural and political capital. This impact has the potential to go beyond the walls of shared living developments and be shared through local neighbourhoods, to the city level and can even influence global sustainability and development goals.

This is what stakeholder-driven shared living is all about: creating shared living communities that extend their positive impact beyond their inner circles of shareholders and users to all of their B2B and B2C communities and stakeholders, including residents, staff, management teams, suppliers, local communities, city planners, public officials, shareholders and beyond. It is about aligning your business strategies with global ESG, social value and sustainability goals.

We can not deliver value these days without thinking holistically and consciously about how our products and business activities influence and impact (both negatively and positively) the multi-stakeholder ecosystems we are all a part of.

Nowadays there is no financial value without long-term social value that is shared throughout these multi-stakeholder ecosystems. Our actions as real estate professionals are intrinsically and intricately linked with all of these stakeholders, as well as with perhaps the most important stakeholder of them all: our planet. The decisions we take today in how we invest in, develop and operate our shared living communities will have an impact on our stakeholders and most importantly on our planet for generations to come.

How Coliving Ventures is contributing to this agenda
From research and development to award ceremonies, industry reports, events and more, Coliving Ventures’ mission is to ensure these kinds of principles are embedded throughout the activities and initiatives we are supporting and collaborating with.

To share knowledge about these kinds of stakeholder-driven specialist real estate models, Coliving Ventures is organising a series of events focused on exploring how to drive innovation, impact and change in cities of tomorrow with shared living. The events will take place from June 28th to 30th, during World Urban Forum 11 (WUF11), a premier global conference on sustainable urbanisation, which is organised by UN Habitat, the City of Katowice and the Ministry of European Funds and Regional Policy Development from 26-30 June in Katowice.

The programme of Coliving Ventures events consists of:

Shared Living in the Cities of Tomorrow Driving Innovation, Impact & Change, which will take place on June 28th in the Scientific Information Centre and Academic Library (CINiBA) in Katowice, Poland;

Coliving Awards 2022, second edition of the only ceremony dedicated to highlighting key innovators, actors and ideas that are shaping the coliving industry, which will be held the next day, June 29th, in Kino Kosmos;

Sylwia Ziemacka
Sylwia Ziemacka
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