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Co living is the new “room mates”

Co-Living has a lot of buzz in the media, as if it were invented last week at Facebook Labs. Alas, co living is often just a new name for room mates. Other times co living businesses provide some new features for renters and landlords.

For starters co living is different than co housing, which housing emphasizes individual homes and an “intentional” community. Co living emphasizes rented bedrooms and a shared common space in a single building. Co living is like a dormitory for adults...except that many co livers hate that analogy.

Co living is also distinct from “board and care” homes, where private owners provide housing for persons with disabilities often operating as payees for their tenants. Different too from “group homes” operated by social service agencies for persons as a part of a treatment by a licensed treatment program.

New co living businesses serving Millennials certainly get the most media attention. These companies typically provide a furnished room, with robust common areas for cooking, hygiene and socializing, and sometimes some event programming. The pitch is to newcomers to the urban magnet cities of New York and San Francisco. This sounds like is a service once pioneered by the YMCA in the early 1900s.

This past week, the website NextCity profiled what they called a co living arrangement for seniors which is sponsored by the nonprofit New York Foundation for Seniors Citizens. NYFSC's Home Share program is being designed to fight gentrification in New York City's Bedford-Stuyvesant by provideing some income and some companionship to seniors living alone. The National Shared Housing Resource Center promotes and supports local home sharing programs and has a regional contact person. This kind of program is distinct from businesses like Air B&B, where home sharing participants offer short term "hotel like" rentals.

Keep in mind that, in Ohio, people opening their homes to unrelated individuals are landlords, with all the dutires under the Ohio Landlord Tenant Law (ORC 5321) if the arrangement is not transitory or part of a licensed “treatment” program. What about businesses that promote home sharing by matching and screening? Probably no landlord tenant duty in that case and it's not clear if such services are covered by Ohio's Consumer Sales Practices Act. Consumer beware!  An interesting example (no endorsement) is room mate matching service Roomie Match which pledges to screen out “scam, scum and nitwits.”  

Is co living coming to a community where you live or work? Google offers no leads to the query: “co living in ohio.” Still, the term has been in use as a new way of saying “room mates” and there have been examples of peer-support housing that is “sponsored” by individuals and social agencies and “sounds like” co-living. At the same time, there are a lot of “room mate” services in Ohio. Often student housing offices at Universities have good tips or check here. Each of these examples of “alternate” housing are governed by the Ohio Landlord Tenant Law and residents may be either independent tenants (each with his/her own rental agreement), or co tenants (one lease with two or more unrelated parties) or sub tenants (tenant assumes the lease of another tenant). More on roommates here.

posted May 29, 2016


What do you want to do?

Mary Clark responds to CityScape story on Slumlords in Cincinnati.
"As an agent with a background in rental housing, especially multifamilies, I have always wondered what we can do to bring standards to investment and how to mandate some kind of education for any entity or person planning on purchasing rental housing in Ohio. This is a complicated situation but the lack of education for prospective investors seems to be an important aspect which is overlooked." Read more here.

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Spencer Wells,
Apr 24, 2016, 9:44 AM
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