Urbanization provides job opportunities for many Filipinos and business expansion for many corporations, but it has brought about social challenges and urban sprawl — the unrestrained expansion in cities — resulting in unsafe and unsanitary housing conditions. Co-living developments, which are communities that provide affordable shared rental housing with significant common amenities and activities, seek to address these social issues and improve productivity as well as quality of life of early adult employees.
“Urbanization will continue on the back of labor needs in the growing service sector and a desire to live around urban conveniences such as healthcare, entertainment, and access to goods. Especially with current pressures on unemployment rates, and employment opportunities typically leading in urban areas after the pandemic, we expect urbanization to continue,” Jelmer Ikink, Group Director for Philippines Urban Living Solutions which owns co-living brand MyTown said.
With the World Bank expecting urbanization to grow 1.5 times by 2045, Ikink said this will cause further strain on a city’s infrastructure and public services.
“The business case of MyTown in 2012 was to reduce the current affordable urban housing gap in Metro Manila, as well as anticipate the further influx of demand from professionals from the provinces. We do not believe this will change after the current pandemic,” Ikink said. The Philippine government has indicated that the housing backlog in the Philippines is expected to nearly double by 2030 to 6.5 million households.
Urban transportation and overall mobility have presented challenges during the pandemic. Governments have reduced the capacity of public transport options. As a result, traveling to and from work has become more tedious, mainly impacting low-cost public transport options and therefore predominantly young professionals. Ride fares have also increased in several Southeast Asian countries due to capacity restrictions and increased sanitation expenditures.
“The pandemic has taught us that public transit options are a source of close contact interaction with many strangers. Moreover, although more scalable and affordable than private car ownership, developing public infrastructure is costly, time-consuming and still a major source of urban air pollution. Also, commuting with public transportation took at least three hours per day pre-pandemic for most young professionals and cost around 25% of young professionals’ disposable income. Therefore, we believe the best way to live an urban life is to avoid urban roads and having everything at your disposal at walking distance,” Ikink said.
Ikink sees the future of city living headed towards more mixed-use spaces and communities that allow citizens to live, work and play within a few minutes’ radius from each other. This includes affordable rental housing and amenities and MyTown expects to launch its biggest building to date later this year, which provides spaces not only for living, but also for working and leisure activities.
To provide this lifestyle to its tenants and adapt to the new normal, MyTown has converted some of its areas into co-working spaces, free of charge, so that tenants can work from their “second home”. It also has significant outdoor amenities on its roof decks, which allow for watching movies on an al-fresco setting, exercising or having a relaxing view of the sunrise or sunset. MyTown’s locations are walking distance from major business districts, and MyTown provides bike racks for those who wish to cycle to work.
Employee housing has also become an attractive proposition to companies at a time when workplace wellness and safety are top priorities. Providing safer and cleaner housing close to the workplace increases productivity, reduces tardiness and improves employee wellness. Amenities and tenant events help employee satisfaction and retention and being part of a community helps create a sense of belonging.
Ikink said corporate clientele has grown significantly during the community quarantines with companies seeing worker accommodation as essential for their operations, both from a ‘health is wealth’ Human Resources perspective as well as a ‘business continuity plan’ risk perspective.
MyTown started off in 2012 with a proposition that urban living can be made affordable. With the introduction of retail spaces, amenities, and coworking worklabs in its co-living buildings, it aims to show that a full urban lifestyle is attainable for young professionals earning close to minimum wage.
“Every external shock, like this pandemic, teaches us a bit more, and we adapt to those learnings and continue running our companies and living our lives. We have therefore made some structural changes versus the old normal, adjusting co-living operations in a way that are safe, effective and beneficial to our tenants, as well as sustainable and economical to the operator,” Ikink concluded.
MyTown, the co-living brand owned by Philippines Urban Living Solutions with SM Investments Corporation as majority shareholder, is the largest and most prominent co-living brand in the Philippines with 18 modern and luxurious coliving properties located all within 5 minutes walking distance from Bonifacio Global City (BGC) and Makati CBD. It was awarded Best Co-Living Space in 2019 by Lamudi and Best Impact & Sustainability Coliving Operator at the 2021 international Coliving Awards. To know more about MyTown Co-Living, please visit www.mytown.ph, call 0917-8-MYTOWN or email firstname.lastname@example.org.