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No To Crash Pads, Yes To Studios: UK Co-Living's Format Reboot

Vision of the future: Curzon Wharf at dusk

The UK co-living sector is about to reboot.

The collapse into administration of the UK’s best-known co-living brand, The Collective, delivered a jolt to confidence to the still young build-to-rent niche.

Now a Birmingham developer — and a potential new arrival from the U.S. — could provide the turn-it-off-and-turn-it-on-again moment that fixes the glitches. A rethink on room sizes could be the trigger.

Woodbourne Group’s plans for 265 co-living units at part of the 1M SF Curzon Wharf development at Dartmouth Circus have met scepticism from planners.

The scheme is the first serious test of Birmingham’s approach to co-living. It follows a cool reaction from planners in Manchester.

Chief Executive Tani Dulay said planners may have been too influenced by first-generation co-living schemes, many of them conversions rather than purpose-built. The result has been smaller rooms.

Rather than studio rooms that rarely breach 15 square metres, Woodbourne is proposing studios rising above 20 square metres, with some units 25-35 square metres.

The idea is that instead of crash pads, co-living rooms become genuine if small-scale homes.

“This is more about homes, about places where people can truly live with comfort and without compromise. This is about appealing to a demographic that hasn’t been catered to in Birmingham — those who would like to live in the city centre but can’t afford to,” Dulay said.

“We’re been taking the city council on a journey, because I think some local councils have had their views of co-living tainted, and rightfully so, by early London schemes which were effectively converted student housing with very small rooms.

"Co-living at Curzon Wharf is completely different; our units are significantly larger and the amenity space on offer is also greater than any other residential scheme in the city, including build-to-rent.”

Woodbourne’s application for Curzon Wharf is expected to come before Birmingham City Council planners later this autumn.

The move comes amidst reports that U.S. co-living operator Common is poised to make its UK debut. Common is expected to opt for several London bases, Property Week reported, but is known to be keen to make a speedy entrance into the UK regional markets.