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Monday, March 26, 2018

Co-Living in California : Diminished Expectations?

"If you think about the most private things that you do, a lot of them are related to the bathroom."
"So that's probably the hardest part [to become accustomed to in co-living]."
Jon Dishotsky, co-founder, CEO, Starcity, San Francisco

"People talk all the time about what they dream of, and I decided to stop talking about it and just do it. I was looking for more meaning."
"The more I live her, the freer I feel."
Carla Shiver, 38, Starcity renter
college student freshman moving
Starcity caters to workers who earn less than $90,000 a year.
Chip Somodevilla / Staff / Getty Images

Where a niche opportunity appears, there an entrepreneur will arise. There is a not-unreasonable expectation in Western society that if you're a member of the middle-class you can always work your way upward and eventually become a home-owner. If not own your very own home, then be able to rent one that suits your station in life. If you live in San Francisco, Vancouver, Toronto, Tokyo, London, perhaps not.

In San Francisco the search for a reasonable rental opportunity consumes the interests of those working as servers, teachers, lounge musicians, copywriters, merchandise planners, bookstore salespeople simply searching out a decent place to live. Wages in the service industry are not overly generous, and those earning those wages are not overly optimistic that they will find a place of their own serving their modest needs.

Along came a new development company whose vision is to serve those hopelessly searching out modest living arrangements. And have they got a deal for you! That is, if you're not too fond of acquiring things in abundance. In these new accommodations shared bathrooms are the norm for those renting a bedroom -- furnished, mind -- and little else. No kitchen(ette), no living room, no bathroom.
Common space at a Starcity building in San Francisco.  

Three buildings comprising 36 units each have so far been developed by Starcity And it's on a roll. There are nine additional properties in development stage. And the company has an assured list of eight thousand people signed up and anxious to take advantage of their offer. With that kind of demand Starcity is in the process of buying up a dozen additional buildings, a one-star hotel included.

Parking garages, office buildings and old retail stores are all prospective future Starcity properties awaiting development. So far, $18.9 million in venture capital has been raised, enabling the hiring of a team of planners, giving the company the confidence to promise that it will have hundreds of units open in and around the San Francisco Bay Area in 2018, and thousands scheduled by 2019.

Residents of these properties are given a bedroom, about 10 - 20 square meters in size. Some units will offer a private bath at a higher rent. The company figures, however, a ratio of one bathroom for every two to three bedrooms equals large-scale affordability. Starcity rooms rent furnished for $1,400 to $2,400 monthly, with utilities and WiFi included. Whereas an average one-bedroom apartment in the city rents for $3,300.
Furnished bedroom; bed, night table, chair    Starcity

The demographic lining up for the opportunity to rent these Spartan bedrooms furnished with bed, chair and night-table are those who earn $40,000 to $90,000 annually, most in the age range of early 20s to early 50s. Those who become accustomed to living in these arrangements appear to feel quite comfortable about their decision.

The experience of Carla Shiver, originally from Albany, Georgia, typifies an accommodation to a different lifestyle. When she lost her position at Verizon last year the company offered her a transfer-job at a store in San Francisco. She earns roughly $85,000 a year. Sounds like good money but aware she could never afford a house in San Francisco, she decided to take the plunge.  She drove west with her Yorkie-Pomeranian, choosing to leave her husband behind with divorce proceedings.

Now she rents a room for $2,200 a month, with a queen-size bed, bedside table, and a chair. She shares a bathroom with other renters, along with a kitchen and living room. She can have Starcity staff do laundry for $40 a month, clean her room for $130 a week and arrange for dog care if she decides to. The responsibility for everything being looked after lies with building managers who restock bathroom and kitchen supplies and plan community events.

Starcity residents have access to a communal kitchen and living room.
Caroline Cakebread/Business Insider
"Most of the residents, who range in age from their early 20s to early 50s, have no political philosophy around communes nor any previous experience in them."
"Moving in was a practical decision they each made. But after they arrive, what they are most surprised by is how much the building changes them."
Nellie Bowles, The New York Times

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