Some young professionals in Beijing are taking to the co-living concept as a way to meet new people and recapture a sense of community living. For many mainlanders, the co-living concept is reminiscent of the housing conditions of the 1990s when much of the urban housing stock was assigned by work units. While much of that housing was considered ramshackle, it did provide a sense of community where it was common to know one’s neighbours. The blocks of high-rise flats that have risen across Chinese cities from the turn of the millennium have now come to be seen as providing less of a community experience for residents. “China’s urbanisation and private property market created a shift from an ‘acquaintance society’ to a ‘stranger society’, but the latest fashion is to return to the ‘acquaintance society’, which is more in tune with human nature,” said Chai Qiang, a member of the China Institute of Real Estate Appraisers and Agents. Chai cautioned the changes were gradual and that the co-living concept would remain a niche market for the foreseeable future. For Evelyn Yu, a 32-year-old who works in a consultancy, co-living has meant new friends and a sense of neighbourhood living . She recently moved into Stey-Wangfujing in central Beijing, paying 12,000 yuan (HK$13,635) a month for a 28 square metre studio. That is a third more than she used to pay for her previous flat and well above the average 3,000 yuan to 5,000 yuan per month for comparable sized flats in the city. “My biggest concern before moving in is that other tenants don’t buy into the co-living concept and are not open for interaction. Then my [rental] premium cannot be justified,” she said. But her early concerns have proven unjustified as she has befriended many long-term tenants at Stey during the past two months. She said that one benefit has been crossing paths with people from different social and occupational circles. She said that her husband enjoyed the social aspect of chatting with neighbours in the communal lounge area after working late. “The chat doesn’t have to go deep and isn’t compulsory. You can do it when you like it. After an exhausting day such chat is so warming. You feel a long lost sense of neighbourhood, where people know each other,” Yu said. She said she was reminded of the sense of community while heating leftovers in Stey’s open kitchen. During her meal preparation, a fellow resident who works as a chef quietly put coriander and scallions on the counter beside for her to use in her meal. China Vanke expands co-living business in Beijing as demand grows Swedish businessman Jesper Jos Olsson, founder of Stey, said that rebuilding trust in a low trust society is one of the central ideas behind his vision for the co-living concept in China. “Stey is an experiment in how you use physical, especially digital design to foster a sense of community,” Olsson said. “Tenants use our proprietary mobile app to sign up for community events, or follow each other’s updates. Respect and trust can only be built when people see other’s specialities and learn from each other.” He added that the more people trust each other, “the safer and happier the place will be”. Jacob Justus, a Singaporean pastry chef who works in a restaurant nearby Stey, said he initially struggled to make the decision to move into the co-living facility for fear of mixing work and his personal life but eventually found the experience to be enjoyable. He said it was easy to connect with fellow residents from a variety of backgrounds. He was able to offer lessons in pastry making to other residents, and would regularly take part in social activities, such as group viewings of episodes from the popular series Game of Thrones. The Stey-Wangfujing offers 38 rooms for long stay tenants in layouts of 28 to 32 sq m and larger suites of 47 to 52 sq m, while seven rooms are reserved for short stay tenants. The operator, White Peak, plans to open two more co-living locations in Beijing’s popular dining and nightlife hubs of Sanlitun and 798.