Co-living in Stockholm: make friends quickly in your new home
Publish date: 7 June 2021
One afternoon, while scrolling through BBC News in the baking hot summer of 2019, one particular headline captured the attention of then 25-year-old Emma Raventos.
‘Why so many young Swedes live alone’ might seem like a curious headline to catch the eye of the British-Spanish designer, but the words felt remarkably relatable as she read them in her one-bedroom sublet in the upscale area of Gärdet in Stockholm.
“I started thinking: Oh gosh, am I becoming that person?”
In the article, Emma learned that the most common age for young Swedes to leave home is between 18 and 19 but rather than move into university halls or shared accommodation, more often they choose to live alone. In fact, Sweden on the whole has the highest proportion of single-person households in the EU and, perhaps as a result, a phenomenon dubbed ‘the loneliness epidemic’ has swept the country.
“I prioritise my work and don’t always make time for socialising,” admits Emma. “Stockholm is also less social than Barcelona where I’d been living beforehand, so the integration process can be a bit slower.”
One solution the article suggested was co-living, a community living model in which residents rent a private room in a home shared with other like-minded people. This option hadn’t come up when Emma had been researching housing in Stockholm a year earlier. Rather she’d learned about the long queue for a coveted ‘first-hand’ rental apartment or short-term sublets, the often expensive and less stable route commonly taken by newcomers.
As Emma began to learn more about co-living, it seemed to her like just the ticket for young international professionals moving to a city with a well-documented housing shortage.
“I’d heard that housing markets are difficult but I think this one is particularly difficult. The second-hand rental market in Stockholm is very expensive, especially if you’re a single person.”
Colive was one of the co-living services introduced to Emma in the article. Following her application - which included using a research-based tool to match her with the best-suited housemates - she left her sublet and moved into The Lab, a centrally-located apartment with 11 private rooms as well as spacious common areas, a double kitchen, and two balconies.
“I wish I’d moved in here first and this was my starting point,” she says. “I could move into a central location and got housemates to interact with and ask questions. It was really good for me.”
An all-inclusive service
“The idea with Colive is that you just have to bring your suitcase,” says Colive’s COO Katarina Liljestam Beyer. “All common areas are fully equipped and your room is semi-furnished with good storage but you can make it feel personal with your own pictures on the wall and so on.”
The company’s mission, she explains, is to solve the two main challenges young professionals face in Stockholm. The infamous housing shortage for one but also finding a sense of belonging in a city where many report struggling to socially acclimatise. With Colive, residents get an all-inclusive rental package, including all utilities, for less than it would cost to sublet an apartment. They even throw in a regular cleaning service, instantly removing one of the most common causes of conflict in shared housing.
The contracts are first-hand so residents can technically live there for as long as they like, although most choose to stay between six months and three to four years. Moreover, they instantly become part of a community of young professionals in exactly the same boat. All they have to do is pick up the key and abide by a code of conduct put in place to maintain harmony.
“We support our residents and encourage good communication. There’s a channel where they can communicate and group chats. Obviously, we encourage face-to-face communication too. Our mantra is that people who live under the same roof are a group but people who live under the same roof and care about each other are a community,” says Katarina.
Relocation and integration
After several trips to Sweden over the past five years, instructional designer Matías Paz took the plunge and moved from Argentina to Stockholm in the summer of 2020. At first, he used AirBnB before discovering Allihoop, a co-living service specifically targeting expats and foreign talent.
With rental prices between 5,000-11,000 sek (€490-€1100) - which, like Colive, include membership, all utility bills and a cleaning service - co-living often makes more economic sense than subletting. But what really sealed the deal for Matías was the instant access to a support network in a new country.
“It made the transition really smooth. It helped to make friends who could help out with the Swedish bureaucracy and all those aspects of moving. You get to know people who are sharing the same experience and that for me was the most important part,” he says.
It’s also motivating, Matias says, to share a living space with other young professionals who are facing similar challenges.
“We often share our experiences and stories, and anecdotes about working life in Stockholm. It’s a very open community and we are always willing to help each other.”
With group chats dedicated to everything from household admin to dinner arrangements - and an app in the works that will connect both housemates and the wider (and fast-growing) Allihoop community - there’s always someone to ask for advice or to make plans with. With residents hailing from all over the world, it’s not unlikely you’ll pick up a thing or two about some other cultures too.
“We look like the UN Committee because we have people from everywhere! We have people from Mexico, England, Croatia, Estonia - it’s really international. So it’s very interesting in terms of getting to know each other’s cultures and sharing the typical foods,” says Matías.
‘A place to call home’
A well-situated apartment in Stockholm is like gold dust, even more so if you’re hoping to rent for longer than a few weeks or months. It’s a frustrating reality that has caused many international workers to abandon the city altogether. With the need for foreign talent skyrocketing, co-living services like Allihoop address this obstacle to retention by maximising the limited space that is available.
“Co-living introduces a new way of living that targets urbanisation. People want to live in the city but there isn’t enough housing available. It’s a sustainable way to unlock more homes in the existing property stock. At the same time, you get an attractive location in a fast-growing city where there is a housing crisis,” says Allihoop’s CMO Carolina Mistander. “Crucially, it enables city living now, not in 20 years as part of a broader vision.”
With two easily commutable locations and a third opening in August (plus two more in the pipeline), as well as longer contracts available, Allihoop offers the kind of support, stability, and community that makes Stockholm feel more like home than a temporary assignment.
"Choosing to come here is one thing; deciding to stay and live here is another. We don't just provide housing, we support our residents with other questions related to integration," says Carolina. "Co-living encourages integration, and this solves a problem for companies which might otherwise not retain staff who leave because they don't settle in. Of course, it solves obstacles for both businesses and the City as Stockholm relies on international talent to remain Europe's leading tech hub."
The co-living experience has been so valuable for Matías that he now acts as a community ambassador helping new Allihoop arrivals adjust to life in Stockholm. Moving abroad is always jarring but with the right support, a new city can feel like home much sooner than you might expect.
“I’m coming from a very different culture so it’s been quite shocking. But being able to find a place to call home and knowing I have this support network, it helps a lot,” says Matías.