Across from Kimberly Chexnayder’s bed (which folds out from the wall) and above her flat-screen TV (which came with her small but sparkling new apartment), she’s posted a slightly faded Polaroid of her mother.
The picture was taken 30 years ago, during what her mom described as her NYC “wild days,” when she flitted between apartments, owned a record store and was friendly with Andy Warhol.
Chexnayder, a 23-year-old junior analyst for the NFL, always coveted even a small slice of her mother’s New York life. But her experience moving to the city has been far different — and easier:
She pays $1,700 per month for her 152-square-foot room through co-living startup Ollie (a shortened version of the resort-reminiscent term “all-inclusive”) in Long Island City’s Alta building. The move makes her one of the hundreds of young New Yorkers, mostly in their 20s and 30s, who are turning to co-living as a solution to frustrating and expensive apartment searches.
Co-living companies aim to disrupt traditional apartment life — just as coworking spaces did for staid office life — by borrowing the concept of resource-sharing. Tenants trade personal space for a fully furnished bedroom, shared common areas and sometimes group social events, all under a prix-fixe cost structure.
Say goodbye to frantically searching Craigslist for roommates, arguing over the internet bill, running to the bodega because you ran out of toilet paper, taking trips to Ikea or playing bed-bug roulette with the couch you found on the street. Say hello to, well, life in an adult dorm. Residents still have to deal with security deposits and income requirements, but the whole experience is much less Wild West than a classic New York apartment hunt.
The trend — which some treat as a half-step between college housing and the dog-eat-dog rental market — is growing in popularity, with companies like Ollie, Common, Roomrs, WeWork’s WeLive and Dwell gobbling up square footage from East Harlem to Midwood. Advocates say co-living is the future of housing in an increasingly cramped city, allowing people to trade privacy for shared amenities, a no-chores lifestyle and fun (if chaperoned) group outings. Critics say it’s a sanitized approach to city living for the generation that trusts Silicon Valley companies to solve problems, akin to eschewing the subway to take Ubers everywhere.
Chexnayder and her mother are fans. “As much as [my mom] loves New York, I think there is still an inherent concern that raises in your mind when you think, ‘Your new college grad is just moving to the city and starting a new life,’ ” says Chexnayder. “She got really emotional when I [found Ollie]. It was just a huge sigh of relief: ‘Ugh, we found a place, we are safe.’ ”
Alta is on the higher end of the spectrum: The slick 43-story development opened last year and feels more like a hotel than a starter home. For rents ranging from $1,300 to $2,300, residents get a “microsuite” with a bed that folds into the wall to reveal a couch and mini living area, plus a shared kitchen and bathroom. Ollie, which partnered with Simon Baron Development to add its co-living spaces during construction, kitted out the units with brand-new appliances, dishware, furniture and TVs; it refills soap dispensers, drops off paper towels and offers weekly housekeeping and linen services. The building itself — a mix of rooms operated by Ollie and 297 traditional apartments — offers a full gym, a lap pool, a golf simulator, a yoga studio; a common room offers a ping-pong table and stadium seating that is set up during “Game of Thrones” and other screenings. Ollie’s studios in the building average 516 square feet.
For comparison, Chexnayder’s $1,700 room in a two-bedroom apartment on the open market might cost about $2,031, without utilities and furniture, according to data from brokerage MNS, since the average price of a two-bedroom as of March 2019 was $4,063.
The co-living idea has received its share of mockery — after all, the name sounds like a spiffy rebrand for the generic concept of “roommates.” But Ollie CEO Christopher Bledsoe says real estate developers need to break the mold to address the affordable housing crisis.
“There’s a large subset of the population that has either been priced out, or is feeling the pangs of loneliness, or is just looking or a more all-inclusive experience,” he says. Co-living companies can use economies of scale to save renters (or “members,” as some companies call them) money, since they are furnishing hundreds of rooms at a time.
Adds Bledsoe, “It’s counterintuitive, but we’re adding costs to improve affordability."
And this is why the subways are packed, the streets are congested with Ubers and Lyfts, landlords are weaponizing renovations in buildings with rent-stabilization, the rents are obscenely high and why the homeless population is going up.
"Feeling the pangs of loneliness"???
The marketing diarrhea that guy is spewing from his faceanus can't be any more tone-deaf.
I got a name for this mindless demographic of millenial urban professionals: