Co-working Spaces Next Big Thing In Iloilo City?

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CO-WORKING SPACES are gaining popularity in Iloilo City particularly among students, start-up firms and freelance workers in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, helping keep the property market there buoyant, according to a property consultancy.

In a report, Colliers International cited the development of co-working spaces that cater to students and start-up firms, such as Dojo 8 and Bonds, as the “emerging trend” in the capital of Iloilo province.

Dojo 8 and Bonds are strategically located along the city’s busiest streets and near universities. Among the establishments’ regular customers are freelance BPO workers,” the consultancy said in the report released on Wednesday.

Iloilo City continues to attract BPO locators with its population of skilled college graduates. It has about 30 colleges and universities producing around 15,000 graduates every year, with more than a fifth majoring in business, 15% in math and information technology and 6% in engineering.

In this light, Colliers cited the feasibility of the BPO sector in Iloilo City shifting toward higher-value services such as health information management (HIM) and software engineering from voice services currently.

“To equip graduates with the necessary skills and eventually capture a larger fraction of the global HIM market, a number of universities in Iloilo are already incorporating medical transcription courses into their regular nursing and medical technology programs,” it noted.

The office segment of the Iloilo property market continues to benefit from the sustained interest of BPO firms in the city. From only 22,400 square meters (sq.m.) of gross leasable area in 2005, the inventory there has tripled to about 67,000 sq.m. by the third quarter of the year.

Overall vacancies in Iloilo City stood at 16% at the end of September. Over the next two to three years some 57,000 sq.m. of gross leasable area is expected to go online in SM City Iloilo Tower, Three Techno Place and Festive Walk Office Tower, among others.

Residential developments will complement office projects in the city, according to Colliers, with around 1,700 units slated for turnover over the next three years.

“Akin to Bacolod City’s residential market, Colliers sees the demand for worker-accommodation facilities in the city growing significantly due to the increasing number of BPO employees from Iloilo and its environs,” the consultancy’s report read.

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Entry-level BPO employees cannot afford to stay in high-end apartments and condominium units near their workplaces, Colliers noted.

“Among the factors that have constricted the hiring of more employees in the city is the lack of accessible and affordable housing near the city’s office buildings. Rental rates in rooms and boarding houses in subdivisions are cheaper but these are quite far from the BPO offices.”

In the retail segment of the Iloilo property market, meanwhile, higher disposable incomes especially among BPO employees as well as tourist expenditure have supposedly driven demand.

“Colliers sees more foreign brands entering the Iloilo market given the Ilonggo consumers’ rising disposable incomes and improving access to retail establishments brought about by rehabilitated roads and development of planned communities,” the report read.

“Iloilo City’s BPO sector employs an estimated 21,000 workers earning a basic salary of between P13,000 and P15,000 per month. The sector’s employees, who are predominantly millennials, fuel the demand for foreign brands,” it added.



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