Movements start with ‘crazy’ people standing on the fringes alone. They might be the lone dancer spinning wildly in bliss alone on the dance floor, or they may be someone craving community and taking action. This is that story.

As far as we can see, the co-living movement began with a disparate tribe of visionaries picking up on similar impulses around the globe. They might have identified a craving for community and connection, or a lack of quality affordable housing for their peer group, or possibly a desire for more flexible housing solutions that met their changing lifestyles that valued mobility, flexibility, experience and access over ownership.

Over the past years, various manifestations of this modern form of communal living has received increasing attention by popular media; dubbing the trend co-living. Like many other movements, in the early days it’s hard to define what it looks like; although it’s clear ‘something is happening’. When co-working emerged as a thing over a decade ago, people could not wrap their head around it. They would attempt to associate it with other forms of shared office space, although it was clear to those on the inside that this was something very different. Here we are a decade later and there’s no need to define co-working, as we have numerous examples to point to; although they all look quite different. The same will be the case when we look back at co-living in a decade from now.

For now, it’s important to focus on the drivers rather than the definitions. Thanks to the boom in real estate as commoditized and tradable asset class in the past decades, it’s become increasingly difficult to easily access affordable quality housing. As technology increasingly dominates our attention, we find loneliness and anxiety statistics in society spiking at catastrophic rates. Relatedly, our lifestyles afford us more flexibility in how we desire to live and work. We increasingly favour convenience, experience, flexibility and access over ownership, status and security. As a tapped in tribe of visionary creatives and entrepreneurs pick up on these trends, they continue to develop solutions that meet these changing needs and desires.

The manifestations of co-living are broad, yet they all seem to embody a modern spin on an age-old construct of communal living which embeds a layer of service. From an anthropological perspective, it’s interesting to identify that many of the intentional communities of the past increasingly collapse as they no longer meet the changing needs of societal norms in our rapidly changing world.

PUREHOUSE LAB  was conceived to support the emergence of this renewed template for communal living. Our intention is to function as a federation, network and do-tank for the co-living sector and focus our work in three categories (think, connect and create). Our work is distilled through six lenses (community, space, tools, model, policy and communications). We support our members by (1) conducting research and prototypes, (2) hosting events, conferences and workshops and (3) leveraging our network to incubate and accelerate co-living ventures.

In this publication, we will share an overview of the state of the market through our six lenses and based upon member feedback. We hope you find this resource useful and enjoy the read.

Ryan Fix


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