Vita launches Union – the first rent-by-the-room co-living scheme

Vita launches Union co-living – the first rent-by-the-room and one of the most significant residential buildings to open in the last decade.

Union reception. Vita has launched the first rent-by-the-room co-living scheme | BTR News
Union reception. Vita has launched the first rent-by-the-room co-living scheme.

Urban regeneration specialist Vita Group has announced the launch of its Union co-living development, offering what the company has dubbed a unique rent-by-the-room proposition.

Vita’s rent-by-the-room offering will provide a level security and flexibility for residents at Union not seen within many traditional forms of renting. Whether residents choose to take up an apartment as a group or a bedroom individually, their rent, bills and lease will not be impacted if other housemates decide to move out early. Alongside this, Vita Group will help fill the room for them.

CEO Max tells us how their definition for co-living could act as a template moving forward.

“Our definition of co-living is rent-by-the-room. Typical co-living schemes are studio apartments with shared amenities. But what we’re doing is professionalising the flatshare and breaking down market conventions and saying that co-living is two, three, four beds that can be rented by the room. We are confident in our stance of how we are defining co-living as we have the framework and desire to build a product that works for consumers.”

Max Bielby, Chief Operating Officer, Vita Group

The development, which can be seen across the city thanks to its prominent branding on top of the tallest tower at St John’s, includes 1,676 beds with 870 bedrooms launching in phase one, and a further 806 bedrooms opening in 2025 in phase two, in a mix of studios through to four-bed apartments.

Each room features an ensuite bathroom, double bed, desk and plenty of storage, with each apartment containing its own kitchen, dining and seated area.

“Rooms and apartments have been designed for people to share with ease, but importantly everyone gets their own space. For example, each resident gets their own ensuite, something which is important to this audience, each room has a desk, important for today’s hybrid workers and everyone gets their own storage space in the kitchen. We’re so excited to welcome residents into the building and showcasing everything we have to offer. Union is all about making living in a city easier for people who’re starting out, bringing people together to make new friendships, and taking the stress out of living together. It’s a place residents can be proud to call home and one which responds to them in a way, no other can or will.” 

Russell Hayes, Director of Residential, Vita Group

Research conducted by Vita Group found that people living in houseshares were twice as likely to want to move out of the place they live than those in traditional private rental properties. The main reason for this is the exposure to incompatible flatmates. This is despite the quality or location of the accommodation. 

To address this, the Union co-living development incorporates SmartMatch technology. It uses algorithms to match residents based on preferences around lifestyle and living habits. If residents struggle with living arrangements with their new housemates, Vita Group will also facilitate movements to other apartments.

“We know that people will have a better time living together if they have more in common and the things which are likely to grate on them over time are kept to a minimum, that’s SmartMatch’s objective, help bring people together who’re likely to have a better chance of getting on. People in a similar stage of their life, with similar standards of cleanliness and consideration for others. As we and the technology continues to learn, we hope it will really help to improve the stickiness of our residents, helping them form life-long friendships.”

Jonathan Tizard, Chief Technical Officer, Vita Group  

Union offers its residents a first of its kind subscription service, Union Plus. Residents who subscribe gain access to a host of additional in-building benefits, including amenities such as a resident’s lounge, co-working space, bookable meeting rooms, private dining rooms, a gym and movie room.

Union Plus members also have access to other perks, such as free laundry and exclusive events. This helps to ensure that against a backdrop of record high rents across the city, starting rents can be lower, and residents only pay for what they use. 

Later in the year, Vita Group will also launch a resident’s social app, helping residents to connect with others from across the building with shared interests. The technology has been developed by Vita Group’s in-house tech team, headed up by CTO former Head of Technology at The Ladbible Group and Missguided Jonathan Tizard.

“Our social app will help to build the community, we’re not looking to take on large existing platforms like Instagram or Tik Tok, for us it’s about helping to remove the first awkward hello so people can grow their network, go to in-building events together, work out as a group, and make friends to explore the city. For Union, we’re all about bringing people together, and we hope our social app will help to do just that. All the tech we’re creating is focused on elevating interpersonal relationships and building community. If you like who you live with, you’ll be more likely to stay.”

Jonathan Tizard, Chief Technical Officer, Vita Group  

Union is situated in Manchester’s rapidly evolving neighbourhood, St John’s – home to new openings such as Fenix, Factory International and Side Street Studios. It also has a raft of others set to open later this year, including Soho House.

The scheme offers individual tenancies and start from one-month in studios and six-months in shared apartments for any duration. Bills are also included (utilities, council tax and WiFi), reducing the stress of bill-splitting between housemates every month.

Rooms at its Union co-living start from £915. Residents looking to upgrade their tenancy adding all the benefits of the Union Plus membership can do so for an additional £90 per month. 

“For too long, the rental industry has been crying out for innovation, new products which address the needs of today’s more transient twenty-something renters starting out in a city. That’s what Union is all about, creating not just functional, but aspirational places for people who’re starting out in a city to live. For these people, we play the pivotal role of the perfect host, helping residents to forge new friendships, enabling them to come and go with ease and aligning our needs with theirs.

“We know there’s huge demand, and whilst there’s marketplaces servicing individuals, there isn’t a product designed which has been designed for them. It’s why we’ve created this unique rent-by-the-room model with technology which helps residents to form new social connections and find new housemates, removing many of the common stumbling points people face in their early days renting. Stumbling points which we’ve developed a good understanding of, operating over 3,000 apartments across Manchester alone.” 

Russell Hayes, Director of Residential, Vita Group