When teacher Ashley Johnson arrived in Atlanta after a cross-country move last year, she was quickly confronted with the city’s affordable housing shortage, one of the worst in the country.
Eventually, a friend told her about a service called PadSplit, which connects tenants with shared housing options, similar to boarding houses, that are quickly growing in popularity across the United States.
For $145 a week, including utilities – far less than an apartment would have cost her – Johnson found a room in a house with four other housemates, just minutes from her work, with a furnished bedroom, and shared bathroom, kitchen and living room.
Five months later, she was able to move out. “It gave me time to save enough money to get my own housing,” Johnson, 30, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.
Informal shared housing – when someone finds roommates and splits the cost of an apartment – remains a key way for young people to move to urban areas and join the workforce.
Formal shared housing – also known as co-living when it refers to tenants from higher income levels – differs in that a specialized firm vets applicants and typically deals with utility bills so tenants have just one monthly payment.
The rise of this type of housing has also allowed companies to construct or refurbish buildings specifically for this use.
The idea is not a new one but it is seeing a resurgence in U.S. cities as both residents and housing providers grapple with an ongoing shortage of affordable units.
Nearly half of realtors reported seeing an increase in “group-living” last year, according to the National Association of Realtors.
And that trend does not appear to have been slowed by the novel coronavirus pandemic, despite the potential implications of an airborne virus for shared housing.
y the end of the second quarter of 2020, there were about 8,000 co-living “beds” in the United States, with more than 54,000 more under development, according to a November report from Cushman & Wakefield, a real estate services firm.
Such options are up to 30% cheaper than studio apartments, the report found, going on to say “several indicators point to continued demand” despite the pandemic.
That does not surprise PadSplit founder Atticus LeBlanc, whose company focuses on tenants making an average of about $25,000 a year – “the front-line workforce,” he said.
“They don’t have access to any other type of housing,” LeBlanc said.
“Their options are in an extended-stay motel that is twice as much or more, so they can’t afford it. Or they can look at living in a car or on someone’s sofa. That’s it.”