Is there a middle ground on co-living in Ireland? That is certainly the hope of Node, the company that brought the concept here and which has just announced plans to expand.
As the company’s founder and chief executive Anil Khera is the first to admit, co-living has become a bad word due to horror stories of young people potentially being forced to live in spaces that are no bigger than car parking spots.
It has also become a political topic, with strong opposition voiced ever since former minister for housing Eoghan Murphy introduced planning law changes that allowed developers to build co-living schemes. Last month, Sinn Féin brought forward legislation to ban the practice of allowing co-living arrangements. Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien also voiced opposition to the concept, albeit prior to his recent appointment.
Developers, many of whom have suggested that co-living is an answer to our housing problems, have faced considerable opposition from a sceptical public. This is particularly the case now in an environment in which Covid-19 is forcing us all to keep our distance from each other.
Node is hoping to find a middle ground in all of this. It believes it can offer a real alternative by focusing on upscale developments – think Smeg fridges and sought-after addresses – that provide sufficient space for everyone. The company is betting that while families may flock to the suburbs, younger people will still want (and need) to be in the city.
For many, the notion of co-living conjures up the type of communal living arrangements that fill people with horror. While they’re not quite Dickensian, some of the schemes being pushed through currently are far from ideal. Node undoubtedly faces an uphill struggle in changing how we see the concept.