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Developer looks to capitalise on Dubai's co-living boom

Developer looks to capitalise on Dubai's co-living boom

09 March 2021

Hive Coliv was founded as the GCC's first built-to-rent real estate developer exclusively focused on the development and management of co-living communities

When Bass Ackermann arrived in Dubai he followed that well-worn path of many when he sought out somewhere to live. Unable to fund expensive rents in his first job in real estate, and not in a position to hand over one or even two cheques as a lump-sum payment, he ended up in a shared apartment in Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT).

He told Arabian Business: “As most expats do, I was forced into that grey area where you rent a bedroom in a four-bedroom apartment from a dubious middle-man, who sometimes runs off with your money, sometimes not.

“I could literally touch both sides of the wall, there were no windows.”

That experience from 2011 stuck with him, and around seven years later he set out on a mission to change it.

He explained: “I wanted to come up with a housing solution that’s more friendly towards young, transient expatriates, people in their early 20s to mid-30s who arrive in Dubai, have a very short-term mentality with a plan to earn some tax-free income and return back home.

“That demographic isn’t here to invest in real estate, they’re looking for a flexible, plug-and-play solution that’s still cool, edgy, something you can be proud of. That just wasn’t here.”

And so Hive Coliv was founded as the GCC’s first built-to-rent real estate developer exclusively focused on the development and management of co-living communities.

Sweeping reforms announced by the UAE Government last year, designed to make personal and family laws in the country more expat-friendly, included potentially ending punishments for cohabitation by unwed couples.

While, according to a report from JLL in 2019, since 2015, global funding for co-living had increased by more than 210 percent a year, with the trend grossing more than $3.2 billion.

However, that’s not to say that it was plain sailing for Ackermann in his attempts to secure funding for his venture.

“It was a long and hard journey,” he said. “Honestly, there were days where I would drop my wife off at work and I would go back to my apartment and I’d just sit there and by like ‘now what?’ When you’ve gone through your roller deck and you’ve pitched to everyone you know, where to then?”

He revealed that he pitched to 173 different people before finally striking a deal with ARM Holding, a private investment firm and a multi-focused economic enabler supporting a number of ventures and initiatives in the UAE.

Ackermann said: “The timing was just right for Hive. I found kindred spirits in the team there, the vision alignment was great.”

ARM bought a stake in Hive Coliv, becoming an equal partner in the company, and also put up the funding for the first project, a 173-room, two basements plus six storey building in Dubai’s Jumeirah Village Circle.

The development, which is scheduled to complete in Q1 2022, includes studios and one-bedroom apartments, as well as two-bedroom apartments designed for co-sharing.

There are large communal areas with workspaces, as well as a café, supermarket, gymnasium and wellness area. The pet-friendly project also boasts a fabrication lounge where power tools and DIY equipment is available for anyone requiring them.

Ackermann said: “The thing that’s probably most important or most central to Hive’s concept is this idea of trying to foster a community that really can and want to connect and interact with each other in a more social setting. That doesn’t mean forced fun, we’re not forcing anyone to stand up and tell us three things about them that no one knew. It’s about creating an environment, facilitating that process and encouraging that process where people can interact and connect with each other.”

And he revealed the company has another two projects in Dubai “in the early stages of the development pipeline”, with plans to open between five and seven in the next couple of years in the emirate.

“As much as I’d like to, we’re not going to be the next We Work and roll them out on every street corner, but we’ve got another two nice schemes that we’re working on in other parts of Dubai that hopefully in the next month we can announce more of that,” he said.

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