Co-Living Grows Up
in: The New York Times by: Jane Margolies
on: January 14, 2020, Updated January 16th.
As co-living companies race to open projects in New York, the options for renters are multiplying.
New Yorkers have long shared apartments in order to afford the city’s famously high rents. This, of course, often entails hunting down an apartment with a real estate agent — and paying a broker’s fee, plus a hefty deposit — then furnishing the place, lining up roommates and getting electricity and internet service up and running.
For several years, co-living companies have been popping up, providing a fast, streamlined alternative in the form of fully furnished, move-in-ready rooms in shared apartments.
Lately the trickle of co-living activity has become a torrent.
Homegrown companies are expanding into new neighborhoods. Brands that have built up their businesses elsewhere are planting their flags here. And even traditional real estate companies are getting into the act.
“No one wants to be left behind,” said Matthew Polci, a managing director at Mission Capital Advisors, which has been financing an increasing number of co-living projects.
With so many in the pipeline, Brad Hargreaves, chief executive of the Brooklyn-born co-living company Common, predicts that the number of co-living rooms in the New York today — over 25,000, by some estimates — is a “fraction of a fraction of what it will be.” His own company, which he founded in 2015 and now operates in six cities, has 520 rooms in 20 buildings in New York alone, and more on the way.
Although there are differences among co-living companies — some focus on communal life with comfy lounges and social activities, others emphasize getting out into the neighborhood — all do essentially the same things: trick out rooms, hook up utilities, hire housekeepers to clean and maybe replenish toiletries, match up roommates — and charge a monthly rent that covers all of the above. They also offer wiggle room in the lease term.
But as more co-living companies muscle their way into New York — and competition among them heats up — some are upping the ante. They are jazzing up the décor in their buildings. They are giving some rooms private bathrooms and adding full-fledged studios and one-bedroom apartments so a resident can graduate from a shared apartment to his or her very own place. And they are not only retrofitting apartments in existing small- and medium-size buildings but also working with developers to add co-living to new large-scale projects — or even planning their own buildings from scratch.
For tenants, none of it comes cheap.
The San Francisco-based Bungalow, which typically works with owners of small buildings, offers some of the least expensive co-living rooms in New York, based on a comparison of prices online. But the furnishings are fairly basic and the housekeeping monthly rather than weekly.
Generally, the all-inclusive rent for a co-living room starts at around $1,300 and can run well over $2,000 for a room with an en suite bath — not unreasonable, perhaps, considering all that’s covered in the monthly fee, but not exactly low budget.
Still, for those moving to New York for the first time, or for a finite period, the arrangement can be a boon.
It certainly has been for Andrew Athanasiadis, a Chicago native. He had two weeks to find a place to live here after landing a job at Cushman & Wakefield, but he didn’t know New York well and was loath to get locked into a long-term lease for fear he’d end up in a neighborhood he didn’t like.
A Chicago friend had mentioned the co-living company Quarters, which was founded in Berlin and had opened a project in Mr. Athanasiadis’s hometown. Quarters, he learned, also operates two locations in Manhattan (and has three more in the works, in Brooklyn).
A bedroom was available in a three-bedroom, one-bath apartment in the company’s building in the East Village and he signed a six-month lease at a rate of $1,700. He was grateful not to have to “buy all new everything” and figured he could move once he got his bearings.
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