Inner-city "co-living space" The Coh costs up to $360 a week for a room. The rest of the amenities, including the kitchen and a movie room, are shared with 21 others. Is this really the best solution we can come up with for Auckland's housing crisis?
It’s sometimes said that a person’s home is their castle. People like that phrase. It makes them feel safe and in control.
Castles are known for their ability to keep strangers out, leaving the noble residents of the castle to make discerning choices about who they have in their home. It's probably not too far to say that a castle would be entirely useless if any random person could waltz in whenever they like and start drinking mead from the larder, or dancing to the lord of the castle’s personal quartet of medieval musicians.
While homes no longer need moats or multi-layered stone walls to provide protection from stranger danger, you can still generally assume that at any given point there’s little chance someone you don’t know will arrive and start eating your coco pops while loudly watching wrestling on your telly.
Well, maybe that was true until the recent announcement of a development in Auckland that’s seemingly keen to find the limits of a home. Introducing co-living development The Coh, which is opening its Symonds St doors this month.
The Coh (a pun name devised by someone who presumably doesn’t understand puns), describes itself as a co-living space which aims to provide ‘clean, comfortable living spaces as well as an instant social network’. You can think of co-living as just like student accommodation for adults. Remember that dark time when you lived with 150 twenty-year-olds named Trent who never went to lectures, but could down a beer in six seconds? Yup, that. But now it’s for adults named Trent.
The basic idea is that you can have a well-insulated, dry, modern living situation, right in the heart of the city. The only catch is that the one space that’s exclusively yours is a room slightly larger than a cupboard. The rest of the house you’ll share with a plethora of strangers. It’s kinda like the Big Brother house, but without the cameras.
The marketing material for The Coh describes the bedrooms as “compact” which – pro tip - is universally a word marketers use instead of saying ‘smaller than you would reasonably expect’. If they were honest they’d say something like “we’ve used every available inch of this place to maximise revenue. But don’t worry: we’ve left a quaint and convenient strip of carpet to get you from the bed to the door”.
If you prefer spending time in spaces that don’t resemble the cheapest cabins on a cruise ship, then there’s a variety of other rooms on offer: a common area, a kitchen (just one for the whole building), a movie room (good luck deciding what to watch), and a ‘rumpus room’ (which I think we can all agree is a normal adult room for adults).
One room that is not mentioned anywhere on their entire website is a bathroom. Will The Coh have bathrooms? Who’s to say. Will they provide the same level of comfort and cleanliness as your average youth hostel? Who’s to say.
It should be stated at this point that The Coh probably isn’t really the problem here. This housing model is being used in loads of other cities around the world, and the people behind The Coh have simply seen a similar opportunity here in Tāmaki Makaurau. The real problem is that there’s apparently a group of people desperate enough for inner-city housing to pay $360 a week for something that barely crosses the bar of what could sensibly be considered a home.
Maybe this up-market 22-room flophouse is the future of living; we no longer need moats, maybe this is just the next step in the evolution. Or maybe it’s a signal to those who have influence over the housing situation that the demand for affordable inner-city living isn’t going away, and that action needs to be taken to increase supply and security, decrease barriers to entry, and lower rents.
It would be cool if that didn’t come at the cost of forfeiting our common values of what a home should be. Or having to live with Trent.