A brief history of coliving


For most of human history, people chose to live communally. Hunter-gatherers, medieval houses, and immigrants lived in large camps and shared homes, depending on each other for food, childcare, and a sense of community. Coliving, though considered a relatively new concept, has its roots in this archaic and basic human tendency.

Hunter Gatherers

Back then, there was no division between social and private life. You just couldn’t survive as a single-family household, so we made it part of our biology to give and receive support from others. Gathering around a single fire and under one roof, therefore, became the most ancient way people organized community and ensured survival.

Middle Ages

Even throughout the Medieval era, people lived in communal households. A diverse community of townspeople, widows, orphans, unrelated elders, servants, friends, and assorted relatives lived together. Because of this, homes stayed less permanent and more public. People entered without knocking, and constant traffic prevented a “cozy home lifestyle.”

Industrial Revolution

Industrialization meant people left home to go to work and commuted to factories. This new economy of industrial efficiency led to the rise of domestic privacy. However, even as we moved away from agricultural labor, people still felt the need for a community of friends, family, and neighbors. Boarding houses steadily rose in popularity to the point that “between one third and one-half of nineteenth-century urban residents either took in boarders or were boarders themselves,” according to Indiana University history professor Wendy Gamber.

World Wars

During the World Wars, these boarding houses were in full effect. They provided accommodations for women working far from home, for men stationed in unfamiliar places, and for immigrants and travelers. These spaces also acted as a surrogate family with its built-in community aspect; people enjoyed meals with each other and shared housekeeping duties. As a result, a culture of social norms around cohousing developed.

Modern Era

Afterward, individual housing units became more of the norm, and the concept of the “nuclear family” presided over all else. The urban “ideal household” — which included a father, a mother, and their biological children — caught on as something to strive for.

But with the build-up of the housing crisis, present-day Americans are pushing back on this norm. Today, more than 65 million people live with roommates, and that number is growing. When looking for a home, most of us now look for convenience, affordability, and a sense of community (roommates, neighborhoods).


Starting in 2015, Common has provided fully furnished private bedrooms and beautiful shared suites across 6 major U.S. cities. Common members live in homes that are equipped with everything from pots and pans to toilet paper. On top of that, members enjoy Common- and co-created events every month to build a sense of community. Some examples include painting classes, wine tastings, cooking competitions, and more.

For Common, coliving is all about comfort, convenience, and community. Find your next home in the city here. And check out our Facebook page and Twitter for more up-to-date information about our homes, members, and cities.


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The best meals are shared meals with suitemates.

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More about coliving:

A brief history of coliving
Top 5 things you’ll want to know about coliving
4 things to expect from coliving
Your biggest questions about coliving, answered
Is coliving right for you?
Explaining coliving, from an architectural design perspective
How does coliving differ from traditional rentals?

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