Coronavirus is changing the world as we know it.
It’s taking a toll on nearly every industry, some more than others.
The very nature of coliving is community and sharing, often with a large group of people, so my initial instinct told me this was going to shake up the industry in a negative way.
“Everyone is in a state of panic, a few summer cancellations. Other than that we are good and providing all possible methods of precaution,” said one property manager I talked to.
Another echoed similar sentiments.
“People are freaking out. Some leaving, some without notice. It’s been a lot of work to inform our team on the ground how to respond to fears. Pushing our members to mind their hygiene.”
This is not too surprising, of course. The panic is widespread across every office or shared space in the country. Only natural for coliving, and likely, co-working, to be hit harder than other industries. While we all hope to wake up from this nightmare that has us glued to our homes and hoarding toiletries, we don’t know when that will be or when these industries will recover.
In an article by Gisella Tan in the Bold Italic, she writes about how her experience overseas played a role in being more proactive about washing her hands, not touching her face and using disinfecant wipes on surfaces. She found that her roommates in the States weren’t as diligent about preventing germs. Because nobody really knew the extent of what we were going to be facing, it was easy for people to write it off at first.
What should protocol be? We think it’s best if people are overly cautious, for the sake of their roommates. You don’t want to be responsible for getting other people sick so better to be safe than sorry, even if it takes a few minutes out of your day to wash your hands more than you normally would or clean something up with a disinfectant wipe.
There is some good coming from the mayhem.
Tenants in one of the largest coliving spaces in LA are seeing it as an opportunity to bond. “It’s actually been really nice to be here during this crazy time. We’re practicing social distancing, but we’re all in it together!”
That’s the one bright spot in all this; that it might deepen relationships for the better.
As another property manager told me, “We hope to be having a good laugh about this in the near future.”
POST UPDATED MARCH 26th
How Coliving Spaces Are Responding
With the concern of the coronavirus growing since our last article on the 15th, it’s been interesting to see the response from coliving companies. Two of them, Outsite and Outpost, address their new policies publicly while many other companies, including large venture-backed ones, like Quarters, Bungalow and Common have not released a public statement.
Outsite, responsibly, published a post on its website How is Outsite dealing with Corona Virus?
They are taking extra precautions - prohibiting tenants from hand washing dishes, cancelling all events and supplying additional supplies like hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.
One of the biggest issues coliving spaces have to deal with: refunds. Outside offered the following response. “Our current refund policy still stands. Flexible refunds will be considered for travelers directly impacted by the virus, including those carrying the virus, and those travelling through impacted areas.”
Unlike Outside, “residents buy toilet paper and cleaning supplies themselves. They also do laundry in shared space, which the building has kept open,” reported Curbed.
Tenants are asked to contact the community manager if they are sick with the coronavirus.
Some tenants don’t think there is enough being done to uphold a safe environment.
“For my own mental health, I am now staying in my boyfriend’s normal roommate situation where we can be in a number of spaces and not confined to a bedroom,” said one tenant.
She was also extremely worried about the cleanliness, which typically is “tolerable” but in a pandemic situation would be “detrimental.”
Lastly, she did add that coliving is “freaking phenomenal,” just maybe not at a time like this. Thanks to Chicago Curbed for the great reporting.
While it doesn’t seem like Common has publicly commented on how COVID-19 is affecting their tenants and living spaces, they are taking steps to preventing the spread of the virus. Common’s tenants are getting an “increased delivery of these necessities per week - 6 rolls of paper towels, 2 soap dispenser refills, and 8 rolls of toilet paper”, according to a report by Curbed.
Like Outsite, Outpost Club addressed the impact of COVID-19 on their website which you can read here. They have a running post with updates, beginning on March 3rd. On March 11th they made the decision to not accept any new guests for two weeks. They’ve now opened up their spaces to new guests and are even offering massive concessions to tenants under their ‘Hot Deals’ tab on their website.
To summarize the rest of the post: they usually have cleaners, although they may not be able to come next week. They are galvanizing tenants, asking each person to be responsible and proactive when it comes to cleanliness, or in their words, “very, very, very neat.” They do have supplies they are providing tenants as well as an emergency reserve which they may have to dip into depending on how long this outbreak lasts.
One issue that Outpost clearly addresses: their guest policy.
“We are absolutely and strictly going to enforce a no-guest policy.”
Surprisingly, we don’t see any other coliving companies mention their policy regarding guests. It’s an important issue worth addressing privately and publicly.