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Capital’s commune: the rise of co-living in the financialised city

White, Tim (2023) Capital’s commune: the rise of co-living in the financialised city. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004525


This thesis examines a pivotal response to the intensifying housing crises facing major cities: the rise of co-living. Co-living is for-profit, privately-managed and delivered shared housing. It is characterised by a combination of small private units, flexible rental contracts, and communal spaces and amenities. Over the past decade, co-living has emerged as a financialised real estate sector attracting significant capital flows. The rise of co-living raises questions that get to the very heart of key issues confronting housing and cities today, from the growing influence of global corporate landlords, to the restructuring of economies around assets and rents, to the rise of platform capitalism and ‘gig economy’ labour relations. Focusing on the proliferation of the sector across European and North American cities, this thesis takes a critical lens to the co-living phenomenon, examining what is driving it, what it is like to live in the spaces, and what it can tell us about urban residential change under financialised capitalism more generally. Drawing on interviews with industry professionals and residents, participant observation at real estate events, analysis of corpus material and auto-ethnography in co-living spaces, the thesis details the complex and contradictory role played by co-living in contemporary housing systems. It is a form of corporate landlordism that extends the rent-generating capacity of residential space and extracts market opportunities from precarity. The sector is a site of intense experimentation with platform business strategies, seeking to optimise and capture new forms of value from the housing process. At the same time, co-living offers a way for privileged, mobile individuals to flexibly traverse different locations in pursuit of opportunities—including for social connection. In all, the thesis demonstrates how co-living is a product of, and feeds into, the inequalities of the financialised city.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2023 Tim White
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD100 Land Use
H Social Sciences > HG Finance
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Sets: Departments > Sociology
Supervisor: Madden, David J. and Friedman, Sam

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