Capitalising on co-living in Singapore
Opportunities to repurpose state-owned and non-residential properties into co-living to address the lack of suitable assets.
Co-living has emerged as a thriving housing option in Singapore, drawing in as many as 20 players offering more than 9,000 keys1 as of 1Q23.
These players are drawn by the burgeoning demand, which has evolved from mainly foreign students and expatriates looking to settle and expand their social networks in Singapore, to now include transient demand from travellers and locals. Structural shifts in megatrends, such as changing needs and shifts in demographics and priorities, suggest that demand for co-living spaces will continue to grow in the medium to long term. The co-living sector is also garnering increased attention and capital allocations from investors.
Yet, respondents to JLL’s inaugural “Co-Living Investor Sentiment Survey”, conducted in 1Q23, see the lack of suitable properties for co-living as the biggest challenge constraining their ability to scale up.
Indeed, the Government Land Sales programme has not specifically allocated land for co-living, and only one government agency offered land for co-living in the past. This site at Nepal Hill was awarded to Ascott REIT in September 2018. The property, now known as lyf one-north, operates as a 324-unit co-living property.
Nonetheless, investors and operators have actively explored repurposing state-owned and privately-owned commercial buildings, shophouses or hotel assets into co-living spaces to grow their market share.
Repurposing state-owned properties
In 2018, Cooliv won the tender for a 12-storey state-owned apartment block at 5 Pasir Panjang Road. The property was successfully converted into a 156-room co-living serviced apartment called Cooliv Waterfront. Other state properties being used for co-living purposes include Hmlet cantonment and Coliwoo Keppel.
On offer, at the time of writing, is the Singapore Land Authority’s Price-Quality tender for a property at 79-95 Hindoo Road for readaptation to residential (co-living) use.
Repurposing private non-residential properties
In September 2020, LHN acquired a mixed-use building at 320 Balestier Road and converted it into a co-living space – Coliwoo Balestier 320. LHN also bought two properties with existing hotel licences at Amber Road in November 2020. They were converted to Coliwoo Hotel Amber Katong and Coliwoo Hotel Amber, offering short-term stays. In February 2023, LHN acquired GSM Building, a strata-titled office building, with the intention of converting it into a mixed-use development with retail and co-living serviced apartments under the Coliwoo brand.
Figment, another co-living player, restores heritage shophouses for residential lease. It engages designers to remodel the interiors of shophouse structures to house tenants. For instance, eight shophouses at Lorong 24A Geylang were refurbished for co-living use. Some others include Shang House in Balestier, which was readapted from a shophouse unit into five studio units for lease to co-livers. Similarly, Canvas House in Tanjong Pagar was repositioned as a co-living space with four studio units.
Singapore’s co-living market has more legs, and we can expect to see more such conversions of real estate.
For the detailed findings of JLL’s inaugural Co-living Investor Sentiment Survey, and in-depth demand and supply analysis of the asset class, download our report Co-living in Singapore: Here to stay.
 Includes strata units leased out by individual owners to operators for management