Co-living – A New Approach to City Centre Living?

4th July 2022

The cost of housing combined with what seems to be an ever decreasing level of availability has been driving innovation in the residential sector. One outcome of this innovation is the emergence of co-living; a product aimed at providing high quality, social living in city centre locations. Having worked on a number of co-living developments, the team at Bell Cornwell has become well acquainted with the issues and arguments needed to secure planning permission for such uses.

Co-living seeks to provide a form of accommodation to meet the needs of people, typically young professionals or post-graduates, who wish to enjoy the benefits of city centre living but who are yet to acquire the means to buy or rent in the traditional way in such locations.

In essence, co-living offers managed communal living not dissimilar in form to student halls but of a higher quality and typically with a wider range of facilities. As well as an apartment, residents will have ready access to facilities such shared kitchens, lounge or games areas, gymnasiums and dedicated work space. Co-living affords the opportunity for its residents to enjoy a busy social life whilst also giving them easy access to their workplace. It is a style of living, which for many, will be an extension of their university days.

Reflecting increasing levels of housing cost, co-living schemes are coming forward in a number of major cities across the UK, often those with large graduate populations and strong cultural offerings such as London, Bristol and Manchester. Bell Cornwell have acted on a number of these projects in Exeter.

For planners, co-living’s relative novelty as a land use, combined with its communal character, raises a number of questions which can lead to controversy. It will be necessary to establish which land use class the scheme falls under. This is not always clear and will vary according to the specifics, but the emerging consensus is that co-living is likely to be sui generis i.e. it will not fall within any specific class. If so, this may well mean that the scheme will not be liable for a contribution under the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) or towards the provision of affordable housing. Given the wider issue of housing need in most city centres, neither of these outcomes are likely to be welcome to the local authority. Some negotiation on possible alternatives might therefore be required to secure their support.

Co-living may also be seen as a covert way of providing additional student accommodation in locations such as university cities where – given the (usually misplaced) association with anti-social behaviour – such developments are often regarded with considerable suspicion and where there may be land use policies aimed at resisting such schemes. Concerns can often be addressed through the provision of information on the management regime and work to articulate the nature of the proposals to stakeholders and local residents.

Co-living undoubtedly represents a credible and attractive form of residential development, especially for sites in city centre locations. However, there is also some complexity surrounding such developments with potential planning issues to be dealt with when negotiating planning permissions.

If you are planning your own co-living development or would like further information, please get in touch.

Iestyn John, Partner

Contact us today

  • For more information about our privacy practices please view our privacy policy. By submitting this form you agree that we may process your information in accordance with these terms.
  • Do you want to contact a particular office, or is it a general enquiry?
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.