Vancouver developer Rize Alliance plans to introduce new rental concept called "coliving"

It's been described as a modern form of communal living

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      A Vancouver development company wants to introduce a rental concept that is gaining ground in major cities in the U.S.

      It’s called coliving rental, and Rize Alliance Properties hopes to build the first project of its kind in the Lower Mainland.

      By the time Rize Alliance gets to do this here, the boutique real-estate developer expects it will have already gained valuable lessons. How and where? In its first foray into the U.S., the company is going to build a coliving rental project near UCLA in Los Angeles.

      Benn Duffell, vice president of development with Rize Alliance, describes coliving rental as a “modern form of communal living”.

      “Residents are given a private bedroom in a furnished multibedroom unit with shared living areas,” Duffell told the Straight in a phone interview.

      Think of it as a swanky version of living with roommates.

      In Vancouver, some people, often unrelated to each other, rent a single detached home and share the house and expenses. This is known as collective housing.

      Another form of shared living is cohousing, where each household in a group of neighbours owns a private house and shares common facilities like a separate amenity building and playground for children.

      Coliving rental takes a key feature of these two housing models, which is community-building, then incorporates it into purpose-built rental developments.

      “We’re particularly interested in the focus on community in these places, because it’s about learning to live with a group of people and providing that group with shared amenities that encourage interaction and the development of a community,” Duffell explained.

      In its Los Angeles project, Rize Alliance is building a multilevel development with 18 units. These units have four to five bedrooms each, for a total of 80 bedrooms.

      “It’s the inverse of what you might see in a typical apartment building, where you have an enclosed corridor with a bunch of front doors off it with the living spaces facing out,” Duffell explained.

      In this building designed by L.A.’s Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects, the living spaces of the multibedroom units face inward into a shared courtyard on each level of the building.

      “On that courtyard, there’s a number of spaces people can gather on the different levels, and the living areas themselves have these large glass doors that can open up and extend out into the courtyard, where your neighbours are gathering or passing through as they go through their day-to-day lives,” Duffell said.

      In addition, there is a rooftop deck with amenities like lounges, outdoor kitchens, and spaces where residents can hang out.

      Duffell added that one might also see an interior amenity area where residents can share work spaces and get access to Wi-Fi.

      The Rize Alliance executive said that the L.A. project is currently in its permitting stages. Excavation work is expected to start next spring.

      A rendering of Rize Alliance's co-living rental project in Los Angeles.

      Here in Metro Vancouver, the real-estate developer has filed a rezoning application for a mixed rental project at SFU with 168 units. The company hopes to later test the concept of coliving rental in two of those units.

      “Our project at SFU seems like a great place to try it out, so we’ve got a couple of slightly larger homes there and we’ve tested a couple of layouts,” Duffell said.

      The SFU development is expected to come after Rize Alliance’s project in L.A.’s Sawtelle Japantown neighbourhood. In addition to L.A., Duffell said that coliving rentals are getting popular in U.S. cities like San Francisco, New York, and Chicago.

      “If someone’s moving to L.A. and they don’t have any friends or anybody they could roommate with but they want to potentially move into a ready-made community, they might go to a coliving building and then apply to rent one room in a four-, five-bedrom suite,” Duffell explained.

      “Or,” he added, “you might sometimes get a group of people who can take a suite themselves; so they come as a group, a collective of roommates who want to live in that kind of building.”

      The Los Angeles and SFU initiatives form part of a growing portfolio of projects under Rize Alliance’s rental division, called Comma Properties.

      The Straight asked if renting living in a coliving development is affordable.

      “Whenever you provide additional housing options for people, it can only be a positive when it comes to improving overall affordability,” Duffell said.