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Co-Living Stalls, But Shared Living Grabs The Wheel As BTR Developers Chart A New Route


The UK’s co-living sector has been making progress at a snail's pace as planners worry about room sizes, facilities and social impact. A shift in emphasis toward "shared living" could help the sector to pick up speed — but many developers worry that this change could crash the car.

Birmingham City Council has been one of the local authorities with the most pronounced anxieties.

But a new approach has now been opened up by developer Cordia Blackswan. Rather than push against local authority hesitations about co-living, it is trying to go down a familiar route to an unfamiliar destination.

The Birmingham-based developer’s answer is to use existing rules on houses in multiple occupation to lever open some space to create so-called 'shared living'.

Cordia said it hopes to 'shift the narrative' on shared living for young professionals, Birmingham Live reported.

It has now won planning consent for a change of use from clothing wholesale (Use Class B8) to a 29-bed house in multiple occupation for its Bradford Works site at Barr Street, in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter.

However, the pivot to HMO rules will cause some co-living developers high anxiety: One of the aims of the co-living sector has been to put as much space as possible between their high-end product and the previously down-at-heel image of HMOs. But by embracing the HMO link, Cordia Blackswan thinks it can make it work.

Planning documents describe the scheme as 29 “non self-contained units of residential accommodation” to be completed to “a much higher standard of accommodation than a typical HMO to accommodate young professionals who are seeking high quality community living within the city centre.”

The latest approval builds on an earlier success at persuading the planners. In 2021 planners allowed the Cordia Blackswan HMO to go ahead because there were no other HMOs in the immediate neighbourhood, and no standard single-family housing in the vicinity to be inconvenienced. They also noted the good public transport links.

The original plan saw room sizes between 240 and 370 SF, with a cinema room and kitchens on each floor.

Cordia Blackswan’s success comes as other co-living developers ponder their next steps in the face of local council scepticism.

The largest scheme so far is Woodbourne Group's 1M SF Curzon Wharf development at Dartmouth Circus. The project met some resistance from planning officials in early encounters last year.

At that time council reactions prompted developers to think of creating studio clusters rather than HMO-style shared spaces.