Embracing co-living in Pakistan

February 25, 2024

Urbanisation and a steep rise in living costs mean that co-living is on the cards for many

Embracing  co-living in Pakistan


he trend of sharing residential spaces, known as co-renting, co-living or shared housing, is gaining momentum globally. It involves individuals renting out shared spaces in a property to live together, sharing common areas such as kitchens and living rooms while having private bedrooms.

The trend is not only prevalent among the youth, including students and young professionals, but is also becoming popular among middle-aged people seeking community and cost-saving opportunities.

Globally, the rise in co-rental spaces can be attributed to urbanisation, the high cost of living and the increasing difficulty in affording individual housing units in city centres. Major cities in countries like the United States, United Kingdom and Australia have seen a surge in co-living spaces that cater to a diverse population, offering amenities and community events to foster social connections.

In Pakistan, the concept of shared residential spaces is evolving. Traditionally, sharing homes has been common within extended families or among students in university dormitories. However, the modern concept of co-rentals, which includes sharing spaces with strangers bonded by common interests or lifestyle preferences, is relatively new.

Co-living differs from traditional hostels and shared apartments primarily in its emphasis on community, convenience and flexibility. Each of these living arrangements caters to different needs and preferences and understanding these distinctions is key to appreciating the growing appeal of co-living spaces.

Co-living spaces are designed to foster a sense of community among residents. They provide fully furnished spaces, with utilities, cleaning services and often high-speed internet. These spaces are designed for convenience, allowing residents to move in with minimal hassle. When it comes to the contractual nature, co-living spaces often offer flexible lease terms, accommodating short- to medium-term stays, which is appealing to digital nomads, professionals on temporary assignments and individuals seeking little commitment.

The practice is gaining traction in Pakistan, albeit gradually. As urbanisation continues and living costs rise, young professionals and students are looking for affordable and flexible living solutions. Co-living offers an attractive alternative to traditional rental options by combining affordability with a sense of community.

There is also a slow but noticeable shift in societal attitudes, with Generation Z and Generation Alpha seeking more independence and social interaction outside traditional family structures. This demographic is more open to new forms of living arrangements, such as co-living, that offer community and shared experiences. Young professionals, students and entrepreneurs, particularly those who migrate to cities for work or education, might find co-living an attractive option due to the community and networking opportunities it provides.

The potential market for co-living spaces in Pakistan is thus significant, given the large youth population and the increasing number of young professionals moving to urban areas for work. This demographic is more likely to value the convenience, flexibility and social opportunities that co-living spaces provide.

Several startups have started promoting co-living culture in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city. A prominent instance of this trend is MyGhar (My Home), which operates numerous residential complexes in the city. These complexes provide both shared and individual living options, catering mainly to students and working professionals. The facilities have WiFi, fully furnished rooms, shared kitchens and lounge areas.

However, this arrangement is still not as widespread in Karachi as in many Western countries and some of their Asian counterparts. There is a gap, however, with increasing interest and demand that real estate developers can fulfil by exploring new housing models, including co-living spaces, as needs and preferences of the population change. This could lead to more investment in co-living properties.

Despite these factors suggesting a potential rise in popularity for co-living spaces in Pakistan, the concept still faces challenges, including cultural acceptance and regulatory barriers. The traditional Pakistani mindset around shared living outside of family settings and the need for regulatory frameworks to support co-living ventures may slow down its growth. A major cultural shift, regulatory support and significant investment in marketing and education will be required to make co-living a widely accepted and popular housing option in Pakistan.

Some other Muslim countries already have significant co-living infrastructure. In Dubai, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, the concept reflects a blend of modern living arrangements and cultural and religious considerations.

Dubai Collective 2.0 at Dubai Hills Estate, marketed towards millennials, is a co-living space that offers fully furnished apartments with shared lounges, co-working spaces and amenities like gyms and pools, focusing on creating a community living experience. Another example in Dubai is that of Roam Co-Living which is an international co-living company. Roam has said it plans to expand into more cities by offering a mix of private and communal spaces for digital nomads and professionals.

Homm Co-living in Istanbul, Turkey, provides furnished rooms with shared living spaces, including kitchens and lounging areas, catering to young professionals and international students. It emphasises community and cultural exchange. Similaly B M Co-Living, situated in the heart of Istanbul, offers a modern approach to co-living, with private rooms, communal working spaces and social areas, designed to foster a sense of community among residents from diverse backgrounds.

In Egypt, MOVA Co-Living offers a blend of private and shared spaces, MOVA aims at providing affordable, flexible living arrangements for young professionals and creatives in Cairo. It includes amenities like shared kitchens, workspaces and social areas.

Co-Living @ Damai Residence in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, features fully furnished apartments with shared common areas, designed for young professionals and expatriates. The concept focuses on community living, with spaces designed to encourage interaction among residents.

Saudi Arabia too has adapted its real estate and living culture to a non-traditional co-living space infrastructure. Ease by Emaar offers serviced residences with a community-focused approach, providing shared amenities and spaces for residents to connect. It caters to the growing demand for flexible, communal living arrangements in the city.

The success and popularity of co-living will depend on its ability to cater to local preferences and cultural sensitivities, as well as the development of a regulatory framework that supports this new model of living.

As awareness grows and more co-living spaces emerge, it’s likely that their popularity will rise. The pace at which this concept grows will depends on various factors, including cultural acceptance, economic conditions and the initiatives by entrepreneurs and real estate developers in recognising and tapping into this market.

The contributor is the CEO at ZAKCasa and Verde as well as a managing partner at a law firm, namely Lex Mercatoria.

Embracing co-living in Pakistan