The Collective is working to solve the twin crises of loneliness and lack of affordable housing engulfing the capital by creating giant communal living developments across London.
Reza Merchant founded the company when he was 21, after graduating from the London School Of Economics , in response to what he saw as a lack of decent and well-priced accommodation for young people in the capital.
Seven years on and The Collective owns a 550-room co-living tower in Willesden known as Old Oak where residents are encouraged to get together and act as a community. The company is also preparing for more sites to open in Stratford and later on Canary Wharf.
The former, due for completion in late 2018 or early 2019, will include communal kitchens, a gym, a sauna, a library, a cinema room, outdoor hot tubs, roof terraces, external gallery spaces and a food market.
And although rent may be less affordable than suggested - with rooms at the flagship Old Oak costing between £195 a week and £230 a week - the cost covers use of community spaces, utility bills, council tax, wi-fi, concierge services, security and bi-weekly room cleaning and linen changes.
According to Reza, the average tenant is 28-years-old and earns £30,000 a year.
Reza said: “It’s more than a roof over people’s heads. It responds to how we live our lives. We want to make things as easy and comfortable as possible. Everything is taken care of.
“It’s the next step up from student accommodation. One of the things people like about student living is that you’re a part of this community and your friends are under one roof.
“It’s all much more together than what you experience afterwards. Community is the key factor.
“We live in a very lonely society. It’s a serious problem. Loneliness has the potential to kill. If you think about it, every suicidal person is lonely.
“As human beings, we are programmed to seek communication and interaction.
“The Collective is appealing to this fundamental human need that isn’t being catered for elsewhere.”
A third site in Canary Wharf is currently being developed – Reza wouldn’t say where but described it as “in the good part”.
When complete it is set to be the biggest co-living development in the world with more than 700 rooms and could be open as early as 2019.
Meanwhile the Old Oak development is on the market to raise funds as The Collective continues to expand across London and the rest of the world, with talks in progress for co-living developments in Europe and America.
So how has Reza done so much at 28?
He said: “It comes down to self-belief and passion. If you really believe in something, if you really care about it, then age doesn’t come into it.
“People are open to youth and vibrancy and passion. They want to get involved when they see determination.”
He added: “This isn’t the be all and end all solution to the housing crisis. It’s a possible solution for one section of the market.
“We have a rising housing crisis. The system isn’t working and so we need to find new ways of making it work, like we have with a co-living sector for young working professionals.
“You can’t just take the status quo as a given. You need to start with a blank piece of paper and you need to change it.”
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