This co-living operator has figured it out and could be the last man standing

6 min read

It seems like co-living has truly gained traction in Singapore, even as more expats (the main demographic of co-living spaces) are leaving Singapore. Due to social distancing measures, construction delays and work-from-home arrangements, demand has been increasing.

(We previously touched on how the Circuit Breaker has helped boost co-living demand here.) 

In light of this, we’re also seeing more co-living providers expanding. Co-living provider The Assembly Place (TAP) announced that it has secured four more buildings under 5+5 year management contracts. These include the former Footprints Hostel at 25A Perak Road and serviced apartments at 3 Tank Road, 18 Penhas Road and 272 East Coast Road.

With these new assets, TAP now holds close to 550 rooms spread across 16 purpose-built co-living assets. Rooms are currently at a strong occupancy rate of 98%.

Going forward with an asset-light strategy 

Including the new assets, The Assembly Place currently manages S$250 million of properties across the city-state, and is on track to reach its target of having 1,000 rooms by Q1 2022.

“We are very excited and humbled that The Assembly Place is the leading purpose-built co-living operator through the support and trust of individual asset owners, investment companies and family offices. This is a strong testament that TAP can add value to asset owners through our expertise as a development, asset manager and co-living operator,” says Eugene Lim, founder and CEO of The Assembly Place.

But unlike other co-living operators that operate on a straight lease model, 95% of TAP’s portfolio are under 5+5 year management contracts, making it an asset-light operator.

The provider is also exploring management contracts for several commercial buildings. With a growing pool of member database, Lim believes it will allow TAP to explore new ways of managing ageing commercial buildings, increasing yield for asset owners.

But the provider doesn’t rule out opting for a straight lease model either.

“While TAP continues to scale its business through an asset-light model, we are also exploring assets on a straight lease model if the location and financial make sense,” adds Lim.

TAP has secured a few shophouses and landed properties through a straight lease model, including 398 Race Course Road. These co-living spaces will be operational by October.

Another property that’s under the straight lease model is The Amerald Studio at 1 Seraya Lane. While TAP rents out individual rooms for its other assets, whole units here are leased out. It targets a different group of tenants, such as families who want to have their own privacy. Since its launch four months ago, the co-living space has achieved a 100% occupancy rate.

The Amerald Studio
The Amerald Studio, where whole units are leased out. Source: The Assembly Place

Partnering with like-minded consultants

Together with the building owners, The Assembly Place has appointed OWAA Architects to design the four assets recently secured.

OWAA was founded and helmed by twins Lee Wah Fong and Lee Wai Fong, who have more than 15 years of experience working with international architectural practices. Projects they have worked on include DUO Tower, Paya Lebar Quarter and The Verandah Residences, focusing on creating communities through well-crafted spaces.

“We are very excited to work with the Lee Brothers, who understand our requirements and their strong track records in some of the iconic projects in the city-state,” Lim remarks.

The partnership comes after Lim and Lee Wai Fong’s involvement in the design and development stage of The Verandah Residences.

Preserving heritage through repurposing conserved shophouses

While repurposing shophouses comes with its limitations, The Assembly Places seems undeterred.

“What we love about conservation assets is their history behind them. Even though there are more restrictions during design and space planning stages, it is the rich history and the opportunity to be part of the gentrification work that makes the design process interesting,” says Lim.

“We want every member who steps into the space to experience the story of the rich culture and heritage being told through the architectural design of these shophouses.”

The provider’s latest shophouse offering includes those at 138 to 142 Jalan Besar, which will be operational by October. Rates will start from S$2,250 a month for a minimum three-month lease. To cater to the work-from-home crowd, there are plans to set aside a co-working space in the shophouse, which will be available for its current members.

Another shophouse at 257 Outram Road will be ready by Christmas.

For both shophouses, TAP has partnered with Studioshen’s founder Austen Chan on the architectural and interior design work. Having worked on the Youth Space project in Jurong Lake Gardens, and skate park development and sustainable hotel pods in Sydney, Lim believes that Chan understands the importance of creating communal space within a co-living setting.

Chan was previously involved in two TAP projects, namely 144/146 Owen Road and 108 Sophia Road. Both projects have achieved 100% occupancy to date.

The Assembly Place Jalan Besar
Shophouses at 138 to 142 Jalan Besar, which will be operational in October. Source: The Assembly Place

Leveraging on tech with an app

The Assembly Place will launch the first phase of its app in end-September. It will reduce data entry, and digitalise paperwork such as tenancy agreements and e-stamp documents. On top of that, members can receive announcements such as community event updates and weekly promotions from TAP’s F&B and wellness partners.

“We are mindful of not creating an app for the purpose of creating one,” Lim explains.

“Firstly, it needs to streamline our internal processes and collate important analytical data to understand the demographic of our members. This information will be important to us during the design and development stage of our upcoming assets so that we can create better products for our members. The technological front is an ongoing process that needs constant improvement to add value to our members and partners.”

Special promotions with F&B and wellness partners 

Currently, The Assembly Place counts brands such as True Fitness, Distinct Creative Arts, One Dance Asia, TBTG Aesthetics, Jekyll & Hyde and The Tiramisu Hero as its partners. TAP members will be able to enjoy special discounts through its member benefits programme.

Under the programme, members at 96 Owen Road can also enjoy promotions at nearby cafes such as Mosanco Enchanted Cafe, The Parlour and The Bakehaus.

“We are constantly looking to add value to our members who stay at any of our assets, and our target is to have 50 partners ranging from F&B to services by the end of this year,” Lim adds.

Keen on trying out co-living? Let us know in the comments section below or on our Facebook post. 

If you found this article helpful, recommends How Circuit Breakers Boosted Co-Living Demand and The future of co-living spaces in Singapore in the next five years

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Reader Interactions


    • Lim Brenda

      What’s the minimum period for stay n any age limit for Singaporean

    • Hi Brenda! the minimum lease period with us is 3 months, as per Singapore’s regulations for private homes. You have to be over the age of 18 to rent a room with us.

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