Co-living firm Cohabs raises $450M to continue expansion

Ivanhoé Cambridge among Belgium-based company’s notable investors

Ivanhoé’s Nathalie Palladitcheff, Cohabs’ Youri Dauber and James Grasso with Cohabs NYC co-living spaces (Cohabs, LinkedIn, Twitter/@ydauber, Ivanhoe Cambridge)
Ivanhoé’s Nathalie Palladitcheff, Cohabs’ Youri Dauber and James Grasso with Cohabs NYC co-living spaces (Cohabs, LinkedIn, Twitter/@ydauber, Ivanhoe Cambridge)

A Belgian co-living firm is getting a massive financial boost for its U.S. and international expansion plans.

Cohabs has lined up roughly $450 million in current and promised funding from a group of backers that includes Ivanhoé Cambridge and a trio of Belgian investors. The startup’s other backers include AG Real Estate, Belfius Insurance and the real estate arm of the Belgian Sovereign Wealth Fund.

An initial tranche of $110 million euros, or about $114 million U.S., will cover Cohabs’ expansion plans over the next 18 months. If the shared-living firm can achieve its expansion goals, an additional 300 million Euros, or about $311 million, will be provided to carry it through the end of 2026.

About 70 percent of the $450 million that Cohabs hopes to accrue over the next four years will come from Ivanhoé, which bought a 35 percent stake in the startup. The remaining 30 percent will come from the firm’s trio of Belgian investors.

Cohabs sought out the Canada-based Ivanhoé as a partner, citing the investment firm’s knowledge of real estate, especially in the U.S., where Ivanhoé’s portfolio of office, residential and industrial assets includes properties in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami.

“We feel that it was the right partner to help us deploy money and grow the platform in Europe and the U.S.,” Cohabs CEO Youri Dauber said.

“Cohabs offers everything we are looking for in terms of an innovative concept in an alternative asset class, which matches a strong and growing trend in the living sector, and we are confident the company will further grow internationally,” Ivanhoé’s Arnaud Malbos said in a statement.

Founded in 2016, Cohabs has about 1,550 bedrooms across New York City, Brussels, Paris, Madrid and Luxembourg. While the bulk of them are in Brussels, Cohabs owns and operates roughly 200 bedrooms across 10 houses in New York — seven in Brooklyn and three in Manhattan. Four of the startup’s locations in the city are open, with the rest expected to come online next year.

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The company is aiming to have 5,000 bedrooms across 11 cities by the end of 2026. Chicago, Boston, Washington, London and Milan are among the cities being eyed.

Cohabs’ plan in New York is to buy one house per month, which would add 200 bedrooms per year over the next four years and bring its total to 1,000. The startup eventually wants to own and operate that number of bedrooms in each city.

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The firm went forward with a $50 million expansion into New York last year after closing on $70 million in funding. Cohabs has concentrated on acquiring small, underutilized and vacant buildings for use as co-living properties.

Cohabs executive James Grasso talked up the company’s potential in New York, citing rising rents for apartments and more people working from home and seeking interaction with others. A typical Cohabs bedroom rents for $1,700 to $1,900, he said.

“I think the model has worked really well in New York because there is an affordability component living in shared housing,” Grasso said.

Dauber said the global co-living market is hot, citing higher utility bills and young professionals’ having more flexibility to travel. Projects of 10 to 20 bedrooms foster “a sense of belonging between members,” the CEO said. “[If we] focus on that, we believe the market is huge.”