Coliving – what is it?

While coworking is a term well-known to many, coliving can still raise a few eyebrows. What does it mean exactly and what benefits does it bring? The concept of communal living is not new – from as far back at the end of the 19th century, there started to appear housing arrangements bringing together people not related or acquinted with each other before hand. However, coliving tries to change traditional perceptions of communal living. What was once perceived as a necessity for students and low income professionals now is transforming into a much more contemporary experience. 

Last week our team attended CCCSEE conference in Belgrade, which covered topics such as coworking, coliving and all the latest trends in the industry, both in Balkan region and worldwide. On the last day of the conference we got out of the capital to the countryside to focus on the coliving aspect of the conference. The location for that conversation was coliving space itself – Mokrin House. This concept in rural Serbia combines living spaces with coworking. There is no better way to understand the trend of Coliving than experiencing it by yourself, that’s why we did not only attend presentations and panel sessions on coliving, but also learned about the vision and life of Mokrin House and how it transforms the community in which it is located.

What drives people who choose to share facilities with others they don’t know, instead of opting for a traditional way of a separate individual housing? Sharing economy is, to a large extend, the answer. With the wide spread of sharing economy apps, it seems like the idea of sharing instead of owning is well established in the minds of millennials. On top of that, the society is changing too, with major cities being frontrunners of this change. The “usual” families are not so usual anymore – for example, a traditional nuclear families constituted only 17% of all the households in Munich last year. The cities are becoming increasingly single, with higher age of starting a family in comparison to previous generations. Therefore, housing market has to follow the suit by creating comfortable environment for single younger professionals. This doesn’t only include comfortable living environment, but also necessary shared amenities, such as common areas, coworking spaces and catering facilities.

The benefits of colivings are numerous – they provide instant access to housing for newcomers, access to networks, facilitate relationship building while simultaneously allowing for enough privacy and personal space and creating affordable living solutions for young professionals. In the societies where home ownership is at its lowest and space is scarce, it looks like coliving is becoming a feasible solution to a current housing crisis. The benefits of coliving spaces for big busy cities are quite straightforward, but can colivings be used on a wider scale, and if so, how they can facilitate development of smaller communities?

Coliving as a tool to develop rural areas

As the number of remote workforce continues to grow (the overall percentage expected to grow to 43% in 2020), digital nomads get the freedom to work from any place in the world which has a solid internet connection. This means that more and more people can select freely where they live – and therefore choose to avoid the downsides of living in the cities – overpopulation, long commutes, pollution, noise and high costs of living. An alternative for that for some is becoming living in smaller communities. However, making small towns and rural areas an attractive destination for remote workers requires considerable effort – there has to be an access to transportation networks, convenience infrastructure, quality living and coworking spaces. 

How it works in practice we could see for ourselves when we visited Mokrin House. It is located in a small Serbian village, which is not very well known not only to foreigners but also to Serbian themselves. Mokrin village itself looks exactly like you would’ve expected Eastern European village to look like – peaceful landscape, beautiful nature, local farms and gardens. It is not the world’s famous tourist destination – and that’s exactly what makes it an interesting place for a coliving and coworking space. Since its opening in 2015, Mokrin house has welcomed digital nomads, freelancers and entrepreneurs from more than 60 countries. People come here in a search of a quiet peaceful space to focus on their work, which often can be difficult to achieve with temptations of the city life.

Despite been remote, Mokrin is well accessible – it is located within couple of hours from 3 international airports. What attracts international visitors here is a combination of a peaceful place for contemplation with high quality modern facilities and community – visitors don’t have to compromise the benefits of countryside living with plummeting comfort level. Each resident of Mokrin House gets high quality shared accommodation, 24/7 access to quiet and social coworking spaces, meals from the local farm, gym and pool.

There is a unique benefit of living in such a remote location – establishing deep connections is much easier and faster if people in the community are just a short walk away. Relationship building is also a part of the appeal of coliving in general and Mokrin house in particular – in an environment where a lot of our social networks still highly depend on our work, connecting with people in a different way looks like a refreshing idea. Building meaningful connections is facilitated both by the layout of the space itself and activities which facilitate the community – workshops and educational events ranging from top quality career events with world renowned speakers to cooking classed. All these events are open to the people outside of Mokrin House, thus connecting the location to the local community. 

All in all, Mokrin is a brave and creative idea, which helps you to change your perception of coworking and coliving, which is still mostly associated with tech frontrunners and megapolis living. Creating this kind of ecosystem helps to attract top talent from across the world to an otherwise unknown place, which has a positive impact for a local community itself – financial, educational and creative. It will be exciting to see these kind of developments around the world and see focus shifting from the largest cities to communities which need it the most.