Life at The Collective: Is co-living the future of renting?
Soaring costs, poor value for money, and a growing housing crisis are all real issues for today’s Londoners, particularly those renting.
Co-living is a concept that focuses on community, high-quality shared facilities, and home-sharing on a huge scale – and promises to be the solution to modern housing problems.
The Collective, a co-living provider with London locations in Willesden Junction and Canary Wharf, offer en-suite rooms and studio apartments. They are fully-furnished, and include access to a range of mod-cons and luxury facilities all wrapped up in one bill.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the co-living concept is essentially glorified student halls. While The Collective allow residents, or ‘members’, from the age of 18, some are in their fifties, sixties or seventies, and people come to Old Oak from all walks of life and all professions.
“There’s a really broad age range here, which gives it a different flavour,” said The Collective member Ben Webb, a 37-year-old PA. “The great thing about the community is that it’s always changing: there’s always a flow of people moving in and out.”
It’s this flexibility that attracts many to The Collective. You can stay for as little as a few nights in Canary Wharf, or for several years in Old Oak – such as one member who has lived at Old Oak for three years.
“It’s a very flexible environment, and offers a number of opportunities from work to recreation. I want to thank all of the staff here – they work really hard to make this a great place to live,” he told ideal flatmate.
When it comes to work and recreation, the communal spaces set The Collective apart from traditional renting opportunities. While renting a normal central London flat, chances are you won’t have access to a gym, spa, sauna, swimming pool, cinema, rooftop terrace, library and workspace all under one roof. All of these facilities and more are available at The Collective, and costs are covered in your monthly rental fee – along with utility bills, laundry and room cleaning.
“The facility I use the most is probably the cinema room,” says Ben. “I run a film club every Tuesday evening, and I also use it with friends to watch movies. You wouldn’t have a cinema in your house, so it’s very different from just sitting and watching a film on telly!”
For 22-year-old actress Michaela Blackburn, the gym is the facility of choice at The Collective.
“I use the gym really regularly – it’s literally a lift ride downstairs so there’s no excuses. There’s also a sauna which I love to use in the winter months.”
Other members love the choice of co-working facilities at Old Oak, including hot-desk offices and a library. One member, a 54-year-old university lecturer, really values this aspect.
“I don’t want to bring work inside my room. Having a workspace in the building, even if you only have to take an elevator to get there, makes that psychological difference to create a good work-life balance.”
Members also appreciate the built-in community at The Collective. In its very nature, co-living fosters a community that is unrivalled in modern city living. There’s a balance between the private and public, but as Michaela says, “it’s an experience in itself – it rebuilds communities in a new way, and is a way to be more personal with people.”
22-year-old Michaela is a success story of co-living: she has made best friends with her ‘flatmate’ whose room adjoins hers, and they have already made plans to move into a flat together once their time at The Collective comes to an end.
“When I moved in I’d just finished drama school, and I didn’t want to go straight into a flatshare by myself with people I didn’t know,” she said. “It’s kind of guiding me into adult life, into living in London by myself.”
Co-living seems to be perfect for people who are in a transitional stage of their lives, for example having just moved to London, looking to buy a house and need a flexible housing contract. But it’s also a great opportunity for those who want to expand their social circle, even if they’ve lived in London for years.
“People who are in between things, people who are looking for a new experience, people who want to share their living experience while still having their own space – that’s who The Collective is great for,” said 37-year-old The Collective member Ben.
If The Collective sounds like your kind of place, good news! You can view their rooms on the Select pages of our site.
The big question on everyone’s lips asks whether co-living is the future of city life. You can live in amazing buildings in the world’s hottest cities, have hundreds of ‘flatmates’ to talk to and do activities with, and a built-in community with a team of staff making sure your living experience is all you could want.
One member of The Collective commented on how co-living encourages “living smarter, and saving resources for everyone to be better off,” as there’s the opportunity to cook and eat in large groups, share resources, and even encourage more sustainable lifestyle habits.
A petition by residents has convinced The Collective to switch energy suppliers to a greener alternative, and “in the moment that The Collective agree to switch to a green energy supplier, that’s hundreds of people switching.”
“We can be more aware together and have a much bigger impact on the environment.”
For many, it’s the unique experience of co-living which is the main attraction.
“There’s a real community: not necessarily in the traditional, fixed sense, but more like a changing flow of community,” said Ben. “For example, the roof terrace is great in the summer: there are five hundred people living here so there’s always someone who’s putting the BBQ on!”
This community expands outside of members’ usual social circle, giving them access to a range of cultures they may not have had experience of before.
“I’ve now got friends all over the world – if I go travelling I know there are people whose homes I can stay in and who can show me around their city,” actress Michaela appreciates.
Co-living is great for a whole range of people: those in a transitional stage in their lives, who have just moved to London, who want to expand their social circle beyond what’s normally accessible to them, and those who want access to lots of great facilities without leaving their own home.
Is it the future of how we live in big cities? Time will tell, but for now it’s all about the experience.