In Syracuse, New York, Troy Evans, who already operates a communal office (see below for a list of some of the top co-working location in Cape Town, Durban and Joburg), has started constructing what he calls Commonspace.
According to The Atlantic, it’s ‘a space he envisions as a dorm for millennials, though he cringes at the word “dorm”’. I must admit that when I read the headline ‘Dorms for grownups’, I immediately saw negative images of dragging flip flops into shared shower cubicles and dealing with other people’s hair and traces of their ablutions everywhere.
He’s right about it not being a dorm in the traditional sense. On their site, the following is listed: there are 21 fully-furnished micro units with a built-in bed, lounge furniture, TV and fold-down desk, their own kitchenettes that include a 2 burner cooktop, sink, fridge, and some storage, as well as a tiled bathroom with shower.
And then in terms of what you actually share with your neighbours – there’s a proper chef’s kitchen, common dining area, rooftop deck, bike sharing and access to Evan’s communal office start-up. There’s also going to be a ‘social engineer’ as a kind of a peacekeeping warden.
Sounds pretty good to me and the images of the rooms show natural lighting and modern décor. Rents start at $850 a month for a one-year lease - the size of the units vary and no minimum is quoted. That’s just over R11 000 a month. Sounds steep to us but rents in Syracuse can be around $1 500 a month (just below R20 000).
Besides saving money, I thought about why this would be appealing. In the same article, Evans says that ‘millennials want the chance to be alone in their own bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchens, but they also want to be social and never lonely’.
According to the accompanying video, some will even pay a little extra for the opportunity to move into this kind of environment - to make friends in the city, be part of a community and create a neighbourhood where people look out for each other.
The other red flag that went up when I read the headline was the likelihood of inconsiderate ‘dormmates’. Yes, you can get inconsiderate neighbours when you live in a block of flats or a house but the proximity and set up is different. The Atlantic quotes Evans and his business partner saying that the rooms are soundproof. Phew.
In Joburg, there’s Live Easy Kew. It’s the closest to the co-living concept. You pay R2450 a month for what they call a nano unit (15m2) – a micro self-contained en suite apartment. It doesn’t include water and electricity (prepaid) and you have to put down one-month deposit.
This is what it does include – wifi, a crèche, communal gardens, common areas with a lounge area and café, indoor and outdoor playgrounds and each room has it’s own kitchen and bathroom with a shower. There is also a hot desk office space, supermarket and braai area.
According to a Property Wheel piece about the demand for places like this, even more are set to be built. Why? Jeffrey Froom, the co-founder of Live Easy says, ‘
They are earning entry to mid level salaries but land up living in unsavoury and overcrowded conditions, sharing rooms separated only by curtains and where multiple tenants share one bathroom.’
Whether it’s out of a fear of being lonely as a millennial, or needing safer, more affordable residential options at any age group, it will be interesting to see whether this kind of living arrangement will be a successful solution.
Check out these cool co-offices where you can rent a desk or studio:
1. Community Centre, Craighall Park, Joburg
2. No 80 Hout Street, City Bowl, Cape Town
3. Gathere, Kramerville, Johannesburg
4. Open, Waterfront, Cape Town; and Sandton, Maboneng, Joburg
5. Future Space, Sandton, Johannesburg
6. Spin Street Co, City Bowl, Cape Town
7. Green Door, Berea, Durban
8. The Sett, Umhlanga, Durban