- Deborah Hayes
While social distancing has become the new norm, coliving spaces, or residential buildings that focus on sharing and building community through shared amenities, common areas, and activities, have found that the 6-feet-apart rule is shaking up their model. Many buildings have found their tenants skipping town. Yet others are finding a huge uptake of student and healthcare worker renters looking for short-term and affordable accommodations. While the long-term effects are yet to be seen, the COVID outbreak is certainly changing the way these communities are functioning day-to-day.
GROWING POPULARITY OF COLIVING
Coliving spaces began to grow in popularity as housing costs began to rise dramatically in primarily urban areas. Many renters started to find that the cost of living was simply too high for them to renter their own space. Quickly, coliving spaces began to pop-up, offering savings for renters as well as a collaborative community appeal. These spaces, often featuring shared amenities, group activities, and plenty of common areas, peaked interest for renters looking for affordable rent and a community atmosphere.
TRANSITION DURING COVID
During the current pandemic, uncertainty, fear, and loss are clenching the hearts of millions of Americans. Affordable, alternative housing, stemming from a prevalent housing crisis and exacerbated now from job loss, will see the rise of coliving spaces post-COVID. Within a coliving community, many precautions can help ease the worries of tenants while maintaining the close community feel that is now, more than ever, an essential. With preparation and open communication, coliving spaces will not only weather the storm, but come out the other side as a refuge for people seeking community and affordability.
FOR COLIVING COMMUNITIES:
Cleaning - Coliving spaces must take extra steps to ensure cleanliness in order to reduce the risk of contamination or spread or disease. Cleaning shared spaces daily, as well as providing cleaning supplies to residents and hand-sanitizers in the common areas can help alleviate panic and maintain safety within small spaces.
Social Distancing - While it may seem difficult, social distancing is possible within your coliving common space. Reminding residents to stay 6 feet apart and wear a mask can help keep your community safe. Additionally, transitioning all community activities to virtual events can help keep your tenants safe and engaged. Create signage to limit elevator passengers and indicate where people should stand while waiting.
Go Digital - If you haven’t already, providing virtual tours for prospective tenants can help keep your staff, current tenants, and potential renters safe. You can also use an online tenant portal to deal with many aspects, such as rent payments or service requests, to maintain distancing guidelines and cut down on face-to-face time.
Make Move-in Safer - Pre-sterilize units, mail keys and access fobs ahead of time to new tenants, and consider partnering with a move-in company that delivers sterile, airtight containers to their door.
Restock - Keeping household supplies stocked and available for your staff and tenants can help limit the amount of shopping trips your renters need to make, thereby cutting down on contamination risk for everyone in the building.
Financial Help - With many residents either losing jobs or struggling to make ends meet, putting together payment plans can be a show of good will that keeps your community strong and your residents feeling safe, valued, and supported.
Community - As social distancing makes people feel isolated, continuing your group activities online and sharing transparent communication can showcase your facilities as a place for community support. This is a great opportunity to host virtual events such as having a local entertainer perform or a networking party.
Marketing - Place emphasis on the availability of private bedrooms and baths.
Communicate expectations early - You and your roommates may have different ideas about what social distancing means. Setting up a COVID roommate agreement together can help you find a middle ground and avoid any unnecessary conflict. Good topics to cover are how you will adjust your cleaning and defining personal space boundaries.
Be creative with socializing - With on and off stay-at-home orders, you may be around one another more than usual. Instead of endlessly watching the news or movies, take the time to get to know each other better. Play games that allow for distancing such as Never Have I Ever or Pictionary, start a roommate book club or host a virtual party.
Fight cabin fever - Make time in your schedule to practice self care. Online yoga classes, taking a walk around the block or taking a virtual tour of a museum can help mentally and physically.
Do something nice - Doing things for others helps us get out of ourselves. Something kind and unexpected, for instance, grabbing pastries for a surprise breakfast, can break up monotony and cheer everyone up.