Is co-living the next big thing in sharing economy?


The trajectory of the modern day economic development is largely shaped by the internet. A friend of mine who constantly travels for work tells me that every time he gets off a flight and arrives at his hotel room, the first thing he does is check work emails, before dealing with personal matters. For him and many others, work trips no longer means a good time abroad and away from daily nuisances. In the internet age, the all mighty smart phone has become an essential possession and can even replace your wallet. By downloading payment apps such as Alipay and WeChat Pay onto your phone, merchants can simply scan codes and make transactions happen then and there, completely obliterating the use of physical currency and credit cards.

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The popularisation of mobile internet has revolutionised a number of traditional industries and kick-started the sharing economy, where userships of various resources are optimised while the concept of ownership becomes less definitive and important. For instance, bike-sharing schemes can be found across Chinese cities, enabling pedestrians to rent bikes from sidewalks by scanning the code on the bike with their cell phone. Urban residents can now acquire and deposit bikes at will, which is an easier, more flexible way of commuting than using their own bikes. Another good example is umbrella sharing. Nobody likes to carry an umbrella with them, yet global warming has made weather increasingly unpredictable. When you head out on a sunny morning but by noon it starts pouring, nothing beats getting a shared umbrella when you need it the most.

Similarly, Uber has established itself as a global success because it solves the long-standing problems of the traditional taxi industry. Even at a premium, riders choose Uber for the convenience and comfort it provides. It has become a norm in major Chinese cities for people to use ride-hailing apps - it’s nice to know exactly when your ride is coming on a cold, winter’s night.

It seems that the concept of sharing economy is now knocking on the doors of the housing market. In mainland China, residents living in some first-tier cities are short-leasing their vacant rooms to travelers at significantly lower prices than hotels. Although guests can’t enjoy hotel services, they prefer the cozy environment of real homes and have welcomed this new mode of travel accommodation. Meanwhile, homeowners can make extra cash by sharing their empty rooms.

It’s hard to tell at the moment what forms of home sharing will exist in Hong Kong, and there are technical problems waiting to be solved, including the settling of an online deposit, room quality assurance as well as safety and local regulations. Nonetheless, it is only a matter of time that it will become a part of Hong Kong’s sharing economy.

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