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Premier REBEC morning coffee

Premier REBEC morning coffee

REBEC’s 5-minute interview with Petar Orlic, Real Estate Partner and Josip Stajfer, Real Estate Associate at Watson, Farley & Williams LLP

It was great to catch up with Aleksander Opsenica (the founder of the REBEC Real Estate conference in Belgrade, Serbia) and discuss ‘co-living’ and the question on everybody’s lips now: will co-living survive the Covid-19 pandemic? We really enjoyed the short, punchy interview format.

Our overall conclusion was: Yes! Not only will it survive but it will thrive in the medium/long term in any city where there is a demand for affordable living. As we emerge from the current pandemic, it is argued that co-living will be a much more favourable model for mixed-use buildings, where tenants can live, work and fulfil a gratifying way of life under one roof.

See below for the main parts of interview transcript.

REBEC – AO: What is co-living?

JOSIP STAJFER: Well, I always describe co-living as the merger of modern student accommodation and a boutique hotel. It’s a lifestyle centred around sharing residential space, with other like-minded individuals. You have your own room with shower but then you also share other spaces such as cinema room, gym, workzones and networking spaces. There is also a concierge, super-fast internet, a cleaning service and all the mod cons needed for a busy life in the 21st century.

REBEC – AO: Where did it come from?

PETAR ORLIĆ: Co-living probably emerged with the ‘co-working’ culture that has transformed offices in New York, London and Hong Kong. It is driven by a demand for affordable living in big cities. Let’s take London for example, the average price of property now in London is approximately £500,000. Average savings are approximately £5,000 and average salaries are approximately £36,00. You can do the maths but you can see that people cannot afford to buy. It is because of this 'savings/purchasing power' ratio that young professionals have are now described as ‘generation rent’ and are getting further away from ever being able to save a deposit to buy a house. However, they want to share efficient, modern, intelligent space with other like-minded tenants.

REBEC – AO: So the main question on everyone’s lips at the moment is: will co-living survive the Covid-19 pandemic? What are your thoughts?

JOSIP STAJFER: As you would no doubt expect in any big debate, there are two schools of thought:
No 1- The Covid-19 pandemic has come and forced people living, in what are by design ‘tight knit’ communities, to stay 6ft apart. Some would say that the model is therefore not viable. Other, immediate problems in lockdown range from rent shortfalls to not being able to move in new tenants.

PETAR ORLIĆ: KHOWEVER, there is a second school of thought.
Lots of commentators believe that once these general problems, residential property related problems (such as rent shortfalls and the ability to move in tenants) – Once these problems are overcome, and we begin to overcome the pandemic, the co-living model will actually thrive. The small, but self-sufficient rooms, are excellent for ‘self-isolation’ and the superfast internet and access to all your mod cons, provide an environment which is perfect for ‘working from home’. I think the pandemic has brought this style of agile working to the forefront of people’s minds and this will be a much more established way of working post Covid -19. More importantly, it is argued by many that this model will thrive in the medium/long term in any city where there is a demand for affordable living. Youn professionals are forced into renting and they would rather rent some co-living space that a room in a standard house.

REBEC – AO: Does that include cities in SEE?

PETAR ORLIĆ: Yes, any city where there is a problem with affordability – that could be Belgrade, Bucharest, Sofia or Zagreb. There are many commentators that believe as we emerge from the current pandemic, co-living will be the ‘go-to’ model for mixed-use buildings in the future; where tenants can eat live, work, socialise and exercise – i.e. have a fulfilling life all under one roof.

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