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When Rentals Go Social

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Male.  Twenty-seven years old.  Likes cooking and indie music.  We’re used to seeing statements like this on dating websites.  However, if you are searching for a place to live in New York City, you might find yourself posting similar things on sites such as Craigslist or Symbi.  In a previous blog, we talked about co-working spaces in residential developments.  But when rents are high and space is scarce, development companies realize that young (and not-so-young) people often must not only co-work, but co-live.

Living with roommates has long been a necessity for certain subsects of New York City’s population.  However, such arrangements are not always easy to maneuver.  Two- and three-bedroom rentals are often designed for one person or family that can afford them.  Renting an entire living space can be awkward for cohabitating strangers, and can strain building amenities.  Finally, subleasing by the room presents the potential for zoning violations.

Fortunately for house-hunters, developers are taking notice of these complications, and are now designing (or redesigning) residences with co-living in mind.  Common, a startup that now operates seven buildings in New York City, has devoted a large portion of each property to single room occupancy.  WeLive, a branch of the co-working company WeWork, recently renovated a property on Wall Street to accommodate co-living in a variety of styles.

But perhaps no company is more focused on co-living than Stage 3 Properties.  Stage 3 owns Ollie, a co-living brand given to its new initiative of micro-apartments.  These micro-apartments consist of a modest central space with the focus being on larger personal bedrooms.  The bedrooms come pre-outfitted with a couch that converts into a bed, a smart television, a small workspace, ample storage, and sound-proofed walls.  The Ollie brand currently covers two buildings in New York City: Carmel Place in Manhattan (developed by nArchitects and Monadnock) and the yet-unfinished 29-26 Northern Boulevard in Long Island City (developed by Simon Baron).  Stage 3 also operates Bedvetter, still in beta, a roommate-searching website like those mentioned above, but with a focus on co-living.

However, as with many trends born of necessity, co-living is turning into a fashion statement.  Take, for example, Pure House, a converted room-rental in Williamsburg, Brooklyn designed to attract young socialites who have plenty of money and little desire for personal space.  Pure House offers residents access to community amenities such as spiritual meditation, masseuses, and group cookouts for as much as $4,000 per room.

Pure House is not the only purveyor of premium dorms.  Indeed, all the companies mentioned above advertise lower cost living while selling single rooms only marginally cheaper than the price of a typical Manhattan studio.  However, the developers mentioned above attest that it is not about cheaper accommodations – at least not exclusively.  Sure, New York City is an expensive place to live, but it is also a lonely place if you do not have friends who also like, say, cooking and indie music.

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