Hotel Conversions to Co-living – A global outlook

Are underperforming hotels set for a PBSL boom?

June 8, 2022Real Estate

New investments for Co-living are on the way. Companies plan to open more than 55,000 PBSL beds in the next few years. At this juncture, turning the hospitality business into a co-living space is a trend on which investors are keeping an eye. 

Repurposing hotels across the globe was the focus of the 2nd Session of the GRI Global Co-living Committee on May 24, 2022. 

The virtual committee session gathered world-class co-living owners, operators, investors, and asset managers from 20+ countries. Anil Khera, Founder & CEO of Node, moderated the session. 

*Disclaimer: While this review highlights the most relevant topics under discussion, it does not contemplate the full discussion between the Board and all Members. In addition, committee sessions also dedicate time for networking. 


Important Takeaways:

  • Finding failed hotels in the US and reshaping them to people’s needs might bridge the gap between affordability and availability of housing;
  • In South America, PBSLs can meet the demand for business tourism and new working models;
  • In Europe, reshaping older-generation hotels can serve as a product positioning strategy;
  • Indian investors explained that hotel assets can be ideal to convert into co-living from a physical aspect, but not so much from a regulation perspective; 
  • Hybrid operations carried out in India and Portugal may indicate an alternative to innovate underperforming hotels 


“What do we do with all these hotels in major cities?” 

Our Committee Member from Akara Partners explained that the US has been a burgeoning market in terms of conversion opportunities even before Covid-19. Now, as real estate investors plan their post-pandemic strategies, failed older-generation hotels around the US are catching the industry's attention. 

According to research from co-living brand and operator Outsite, maintaining the charm of old hotels and prioritizing function is a key challenge when converting. It will be necessary to rebuild several spaces that were not core to the business. 

However, as Outsite executives added during the session, conversions need to be done by understanding the community’s needs in the first place. Returns may exceed expectations with a high-quality analysis of the population. This could bridge the gap between affordability and availability of housing. 

Outsite New York - Manhattan Midtown is a shared living space, designed to be a hub for digital nomads, flexible professionals, and business travelers. It is located in New York City’s Murray Hill Historic District Extension.


Branding buildings in Europe 

In sharing a hotel conversion case to co-living, partners from developer re:shape reported a number of nuances to be aware of. When purchasing a hotel it is important to be aware of restrictions on the length of stay. 

In the UK, there are usually 90-day restrictions, but assets prior to 2004/2005 often have unrestricted services. Older-generation hotels, therefore, would be a gateway to taking a sui generis hotel scheme and branding it as co-living.

During the Committee session, our key contributor from re:shape also touched on the issue that hotels are subject to business rates. Therefore, it might be difficult to get the benefit of council tax, and consumers will have to pay value-added taxes (VAT) for the first 28 days. 

But as a product positioning strategy, co-living properties can serve users for shorter periods of stay, as people's working patterns are changing. For this to occur, changes in the physical aspect tend to redesign the units for a more homely environment

According to Kley, developer and operator of student residences, converting a hotel project into a residential project is arduous from a physical perspective. 3-4 star hotels tend to have 6-17 m² per unit, while PBSLs need an average size closer to 20m². 

But other Committee Members also see opportunities for innovating older-generation hotels. This is the case with hotel developments in Portugal, according to leaders from B-Hive Living. In this sense, keeping the building’s operation as a hotel might be more advantageous, particularly because of restriction terms. 

Indeed, from the investors’ lens, banks in Germany hardly repurpose PBSL projects to the residential sector. This was according to data brought by Rock Invest Capital

Major funds, on the other hand, are primarily location-driven. In this case, co-living projects can be seen as an opportunity in shopping centers and locations close to offices. 

Rock Invest’s Tabbertstraße 2 and 3 are located on the northern bank of the Spree river in an attractive residential area for younger people and families. Alexanderplatz can be reached in 30 minutes by public transport. 


PBSL as a catalyst for redefining the hospitality experience?

In India, attendees from Olive by Embassy Group explained that hotel assets can be ideal to convert into co-living from a physical aspect, but not so much from a regulation perspective. From this point of view, either if it is commercial or residential zoning, India is still in its nascent stages, and lacks a definition for co-living. 

However, having gone through the experience of hybrid operations, especially during Covid, was key to innovation. According to Olive, it became possible to upgrade hotel customers to extended-stay and still operate on the premium segment. 

Olive Magrath is an aparthotel in the central business district of Bengaluru. 

Moving to South America, co-living is still a new concept to most stakeholders. In this regard, our last Committee session discussed the different co-living definitions.

However, according to data presented by investment advisory company Onirus Hospitality, modern shared living properties can be an opportunity to serve digital nomads and users with new working patterns. Many consumers are flying down to spend 2-3 months, and are likely to choose an extended state service. 

Additionally, Onirus analyzed that institutional investors are also looking at conversions in hospitality in South America, as they have opened new compartments of their funds for focusing on multifamily and co-living. 

Mixed-Use Building, which includes a 120-room Residence Inn by Marriott long-stay hotel; 2,200 m2 of commercial space and 6,400 m2 of offices, located on Avenida Camino Real, district of San Isidro, Lima.

Overall, real estate leaders are looking at conversions to co-living as products for positioning and branding buildings. The hospitality landscape, on the other hand, has changed forever, and investors are repositioning underperforming hotels into a more homely and modern environment. This can meet the demand of new working patterns and consumers. 


Session Highlights 

Watch the full discussion


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About the GRI Global Committee

GRI Global Committees set the professional standard for peer-to-peer knowledge sharing in order to identify new trends, capitalise on growth opportunities, and aid deal flow discovery worldwide. The Committees function as think tanks that bring impactful international conversations, and top-notch content. They gather the most influential global players of the real estate industry in a full-year journey of online sessions. 

– Lucas Brancucci | GRI Global Committee Production Team