tthe cost of housing is out of reach for many residents in cities such as Los Angeles and Seattle. One solution is called co-living, and it looks a lot like dorm life. Co-living projects are trying to fill a vacuum between low-income and luxury housing in expensive housing markets where people in the middle are left with few choices.
Nadya Hewitt lives in a building in Los Angeles run by a company called PodShare, where renters (or “members,” in company lingo) occupy “pods.” The grand tour of 33-year-old Hewitt’s home takes place sitting on her bed as she points out the various things she keeps within arm’s reach: a lamp, sunglasses, a water bottle, a jar of peanut butter.
The pods consist of a twin bed with a small flat-screen TV in a communal bunk room, some immediate storage space and access to lockers. The kitchen, bathrooms, yard and other common areas are all shared. Members also are allowed to hop around to different PodShare locations as much as they want, as long as there’s availability.
Prices vary slightly at different sites, but the PodShare where Hewitt’s staying costs $1,400 a month. That might sound steep, but traditional apartments in the surrounding neighborhood of Venice Beach go for a lot more.
Without PodShare, Hewitt says she’d never be able to afford this area.
“Oh my gosh,” she said, “I’ve looked at studio apartments in this area, in Hollywood, downtown. I mean, we’re looking at almost $2,000 a month.”
PodShare, which opened its fifth location in L.A. this year, is part of a growing trend. It’s one of several companies operating co-living buildings in the city. In these properties, tenants typically share kitchens, bathrooms and living rooms in exchange for cheaper rent. The co-living companies generally don’t own the properties but partner with local developers to operate and manage them.
In Los Angeles, besides PodShare’s projects, there are co-living buildings under construction in downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood and Venice Beach.
New co-living projects also have popped up in other cities where the cost of housing has risen in recent years, including New York, Seattle, Portland and San Francisco.
Jon Dishotsky is the CEO of a co-living startup called Starcity, which already manages four buildings in San Francisco. The company’s first building in Los Angeles is currently under construction in Venice Beach.
On a recent afternoon, Dishotsky pushed open the door to the roof deck on the Venice Beach project and stepped outside. Lounge furniture was arranged around the roof, and the ocean was visible a block away.
“There’s gonna be acoustic music going on here on a weekly basis,” he said, and “Sunday suppers where everybody gathers.”
As he spoke, construction crews were still putting the finishing touches on the building’s first floor.
Dishotsky said his goal is “bringing back some level of affordability to one of the most expensive ZIP codes in the country.”
Four types of working professionals for co-living projects
Specifically, he said the building targets working professionals who otherwise couldn’t afford to live near the beach.
“We kind of have four different customer types,” he said. “We have a ‘starter,’ who’s just coming to a new city and wants to grab life by its horns. We have a ‘restarter,’ somebody who’s 30 to 40 who maybe had a divorce or had a really tough roommate situation and is tired of running a home.”
Then there are the “life shapers,” who Dishotsky describes as champions of co-living as a long-term lifestyle. And finally there’s the out-of-towners who need a local place to crash for a month or two because of, say, a job assignment.
The prices at Starcity’s new L.A. building might be a good deal for Venice Beach, but they’re not cheap. Rents will start at about $2,200 a month for dorm-like suites where renters get private bedrooms but share bathrooms and kitchens with one other unit and go all the way up to about $3,500 a month for traditional one-bedrooms. The building also includes some traditional studios.
“We’re very hyperaware of the fact that this is not a full solution for affordability,” Dishotsky said. “We are working on that.”