You’ll share this apart­ment with a stranger — but don’t dare call this space a dorm

The Hamilton Spectator - - Style - ROGER VIN­CENT

The first step into a posh new apart­ment build­ing near Ma­rina del Rey feels like a mis­take. There’s no lobby — in­stead the door opens to a lounge and kitchen.

The idea is to en­cour­age min­gling, which is part of the ap­peal of a build­ing where ten­ants have their own be­d­rooms but share com­mon ar­eas with peo­ple they don’t know.

But this is not your typ­i­cal L.A. room­mate sit­u­a­tion. The be­d­rooms are spa­cious, the liv­ing rooms are fur­nished — and the res­i­dents are of­ten se­lected by the land­lord.

Wel­come to “co-liv­ing” in a time of sky-high rents.

The shared econ­omy has trans­formed how we get around, how we travel, who sits next to us at the of­fice and, now, with whom we share our pri­vate spa­ces.

Real es­tate de­vel­op­ers like Cal­i­for­nia Land­mark Group, which owns apart­ment build­ing C1, are pi­o­neer­ing a new way of liv­ing by pri­mar­ily ca­ter­ing to young pro­fes­sion­als and cre­ative types who en­joy lux­ury digs but can’t swing the rent in de­sir­able neigh­bour­hoods such as the Ma­rina.

And while stretch­ing out on a sofa with a stranger may strike many as un­usual, it is not much of a leap to peo­ple al­ready com­fort­able with Uber and Airbnb, said Ken Ka­han, founder of the Los An­ge­les-based de­vel­op­ment com­pany.

“Peo­ple get in other peo­ple’s cars and sleep in other peo­ple’s beds,” he said. “This is a nat­u­ral ex­pan­sion of the hous­ing mar­ket in the shared econ­omy.”

Co-liv­ing has the ben­e­fit of of­fer­ing renters in search of so­cial con­nec­tion the chance to bond with new ac­quain­tances in sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions, but its fun­da­men­tal ap­peal may be eco­nomic.

In­di­vid­ual ten­ants at C1 pay at least $2,000 a month in the nearly $40-mil­lion build­ing, which just opened. But that’s still cheaper than com­par­a­tive sin­gles in the neigh­bour­hood and $600 less than con­ven­tional stu­dios also avail­able for rent in the com­plex.

Typ­i­cally, a co-liv­ing renter has a pri­vate bed­room and can spring for a pri­vate bath­room, but shares the kitchen, liv­ing room and other com­mu­nal spa­ces. Units are fur­nished — some­times at an In­sta­gram-wor­thy level — and the rent usu­ally in­cludes ser­vices that aren’t cov­ered in other apart­ments, such as util­i­ties and Wi-Fi.

C1 even of­fers Net­flix and maid ser­vices to head off squab­bles over whose turn it is to vac­uum the floor and scrub the sink.

Co-liv­ing com­plexes have grown fairly com­mon in Euro­pean cities such as Ber­lin, Lon­don and Dublin, Ka­han said, and are now spring­ing up in New York, Seat­tle, San Fran­cisco, Los An­ge­les and other Amer­i­can ur­ban ar­eas.

They come in dif­fer­ent it­er­a­tions. Some com­pa­nies con­tract with land­lords to re­fit en­tire build­ings or carve up in­di­vid­ual units so that a two-bed­room might fit ad­di­tional ten­ants who squeeze into bunk beds or live in a par­ti­tioned liv­ing room.

De­vel­op­ers such as Ka­han are tak­ing the next step: build­ing from the ground up and fore­see­ing a time when co-liv­ing is a new prop­erty cat­e­gory, like as­sist­ing liv­ing com­plexes de­signed to serve the grow­ing num­bers of wealthy se­niors.

For now, though, co-liv­ing is still in its in­fancy and is con­sid­ered some­what ex­per­i­men­tal. But if the small devel­op­ments emerg­ing in trendy hous­ing mar­kets like Ma­rina del Rey, Venice and Echo Park suc­ceed, more will prob­a­bly fol­low.

An­other co-liv­ing hous­ing de­vel­oper, Anil Khera, sees a link be­tween co-liv­ing and the up­mar­ket stu­dent hous­ing com­plexes that have sprung up around cam­puses in re­cent years. Those have formed an es­tab­lished new prop­erty cat­e­gory that is a leap be­yond the spar­tan dor­mi­to­ries and cracker-box apart­ments of col­lege stu­dents a gen­er­a­tion ago.

Com­plexes near USC and UC Irvine, for in­stance, of­fer lux­u­ries such as 24-hour fit­ness cen­tres, tan­ning booths, bil­liards, bar­be­cues, and re­sort-style pools with ca­banas. Fur­nished units come with gran­ite coun­ter­tops, big-screen HD tele­vi­sion sets and ice mak­ers.

“You have mil­len­ni­als who have grown up in pretty fancy pur­pose-built apart­ments,” Khera said, and are un­ac­cus­tomed to “slum­ming it” in old, un­fur­nished units once out of school.

Khera, a for­mer ex­ec­u­tive at global pri­vate eq­uity real es­tate firm Blackstone, in 2016 founded a co-liv­ing com­pany called Node as it be­came ap­par­ent that mil­len­ni­als val­ued travel, mem­o­rable events and friend­ships over pos­ses­sions.

“The as­pi­ra­tion for the new gen­er­a­tion grow­ing up glob­ally con­nected on In­sta­gram is about ex­pe­ri­ences and con­nec­tions,” he said. “That’s the stuff that’s cool.”

Pro­mo­tional ma­te­ri­als for Node’s new Echo Park out­post boast that its two 1920s-vin­tage bun­ga­low court com­plexes are “In­sta­gram ready,” fea­tur­ing “cu­rated” fur­nished in­te­ri­ors with de­signer kitchens that in­clude retro-look­ing Smeg Ital­ian re­frig­er­a­tors that re­tail for about $2,000.

Node, based in Lon­don, looks to con­vert old hous­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the his­toric ar­chi­tec­tural style of its lo­cale, such as a brown­stone in Brook­lyn, a 200year-old Ge­or­gian Square hous­ing com­plex in Dublin and the bun­ga­low courts in Los An­ge­les.

Not all of the Echo Park units, which start at $2,850, are co-liv­ing. Many of them are meant for a sin­gle per­son or a cou­ple. The close quar­ters of the bun­ga­low court lay­out in­still an aura of com­mu­nity, how­ever, and Node en­vi­sions res­i­dents in­ter­act­ing with the en­cour­age­ment of a “com­mu­nity cu­ra­tor” who will help peo­ple find room­mates and ar­range group events such as con­certs and cook­outs.

Starcity chief ex­ec­u­tive Jon Dishot­sky launched the com­pany in 2016 in San Fran­cisco, where it de­vel­oped its first co­l­iv­ing build­ing, after polling young mid­dle-in­come ur­ban­ites about how they were deal­ing with high hous­ing costs.

The ma­jor­ity, he found, coped one of three ways: by com­mut­ing long dis­tances from cheaper neigh­bour­hoods, by squeez­ing into small apart­ments with mul­ti­ple room­mates or by spend­ing as much as 70 per cent of their in­come on rent. There was no so­lu­tion on the sup­ply side of the equa­tion to a “hair on fire” sit­u­a­tion on the de­mand side, he said.

Aside from the re­cent col­lege grad­u­ates or other young peo­ple early in their ca­reers who view co-liv­ing as a “lily pad” to land on be­fore work­ing their way up to more ex­pen­sive, con­ven­tional hous­ing, the model at­tracts a sec­ond group, Dishot­sky said.

He calls them “restarters” — peo­ple be­tween 30 and 50 who might be com­ing out of a divorce or are oth­er­wise launch­ing a sec­ond act in their lives. “Maybe they had a house and a fam­ily and want to be taken care of in­stead of tak­ing care of other peo­ple.”


The C1 apart­ment com­plex by Cal­i­for­nia Land­mark Group in Ma­rina del Rey.


Ken Ka­han, founder and pres­i­dent of Cal­i­for­nia Land­mark Group.


The roof of the C1 apart­ment com­plex fea­tures a pool and lounge area.


The kitchen and din­ing area in a Node bun­ga­low.


The sun­room in a Node town­house in Los An­ge­les.

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