Co-living start-up Hmlet is no ordinary rental business

At Hmlet, inter-flat conflicts are resolved by either the community managers’ intervention or swift offers for residents to change apartments.
Sharing living spaces with like-minded peers gives them a sense of community, says Hmlet founder

When the Dutch expatriate arrived in Singapore last November, she had only a few acquaintances.

Today, the 24-year old who wants to be known only as Miss Eva regularly “hangs out” with 25 other expats. They are all her neighbours in an apartment block in Joo Chiat.

The head of finance at a food delivery company is one of 200 tenants who have signed up with co-living start-up Hmlet.

About 90 per cent of them are 18- to 38-year-old expats from Asia, Europe and the US.

Co-living is the concept of like-minded residents sharing a communal living space while being offered room cleaning, ironing, laundry or on-demand cooking services, usually managed by an overseer or community manager.

Hmlet co-founder Yoan Kamalski, a French expat, 28, told The New Paper: “Most of our new members are foreigners and need new friends to help them get their bearings. They seek a sense of community outside their countries of origin.”

At Hmlet, residents are matched to flatmates via assessments of their degree of friendliness and ability to compromise.

Inter-flat conflicts – often triggered by dirty dishes – are resolved by either the community managers’ intervention or swift offers for residents to change apartments.

Similar accommodations are popular in the US, where companies such as Open Door and WeLive, a subsidiary of major US co-working company WeWork, have established apartments in California and New York.

Co-living is also on the rise in China, fuelled by millennials in top-tier Chinese cities.

Attempts at starting co-living businesses here have been less successful. The Business Times reported in 2016 that property start-up’s 13, a vogue Geylang shophouse, closed after suffering losses despite decent occupancy rates.

Local e-commerce platform ShopBack explored co-living opportunities for its employees in 2016 until “cost, occupancy rate and administrative concerns” caused the idea to be put on hold, said a spokesman.

But Mr Kamalski is optimistic and projects Hmlet will have 300 members here by May.

He said shifting millennial mindsets here towards independent living, affordability and longing for community could increase demand for co-living down the road.

For now, no new players are emerging to compete with Hmlet. A spokesman for WeWork Singapore told TNP it has no plans to expand into Singapore.

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