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Op/Ed

Update on WeWork’s attempt at Millennial-friendly Utopian housing

(HOUSING) WeLive, a communal apartment endeavor, may be the latest attempt to cater to extroverts — but is it more than just a college campus with a bar?

welive interior

If you’re familiar with WeWork — the co-working sensation that brought together remote workers from all over — you may know about WeLive, the WeWork company’s foray into communal housing.

WeLive is pretty much what it sounds like: an apartment complex that, along with private dwellings, includes several communal areas and many of the amenities included in your average hotel. The complex itself has a heavy emphasis on community, making an outgoing persona and an interest in mingling during your off-hours a must.

If that sounds a bit too much like a cross between We Happy Few and the Stanford Prison Experiment to you, you aren’t alone. WeLive’s atmosphere is reportedly borderline cultish with what some perceive as artificial happiness and inflated enthusiasm for the brand, and the idea of living in “perfect harmony” with a bunch of adults in their 30s is enough to make the average person throw a little bit.

But WeLive is rooted in a strong core premise — that people need interaction with others they can trust in a convenient location — and if the culture of being initially over-friendly isn’t off-putting to a potential resident, it’s easy to see why one might stick around. From pre-furnished apartments to complimentary drinks at the in-complex bar, WeLive comes fully stocked with all the ingredients for a good social romp.

It’s WeLive’s actual intent that is so confusing to me.

From what I can tell, WeLive is geared toward an oddly specific demographic: the 20 to 30, single, outgoing, partially highfalutin’ individual who doesn’t enjoy doing their own shopping. Picture an excessively lavish college dorm full of people who, instead of skipping econ to smoke weed, have day jobs. The idea’s fantastic in the short run, but where is the longevity? There’s a reason that college includes only a few years of communal living.

Perhaps that’s the confusing part: that WeLive, for all its idyllic presentation, is more of a short-term utopia for this generation’s party folk rather than a sustainable alternative to traditional housing.

This oasis-esque presentation is another curious component of WeLive’s model thus far: both of their locations are in traditionally antisocial areas (New York City and Arlington), making the idea of a neighborly communal living complex seem like more of a utopia for the interaction-starved rather than a practical solution for young, wealthy entrepreneurs.

WeWork’s potential solution to societal loneliness is still in its test phase, but it seems that the startup’s roots are embedded in a fleeting phenomenon rather than a long-term problem. Coupled with WeWork’s propensity for creating divisive regulations and the startling cost of some of WeLive’s units, this communal living endeavor feels like the latest in a string of gimmicky patches for one of life’s incurable ailments.

Jack Lloyd has a BA in Creative Writing from Forest Grove's Pacific University; he spends his writing days using his degree to pursue semicolons, freelance writing and editing, oxford commas, and enough coffee to kill a bear. His infatuation with rain is matched only by his dry sense of humor.

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