Its name has the cachet of a trendy Brooklyn house, but Brownstone Shared Housing has brought a new concept of affordable, albeit small, housing to Palo Alto.
The shared housing company rents out “sleeping pods” for $800 a month, where people sleep in a room in a room a little wider than a twin bed but big enough to stand up on. Residents share the kitchen and other living spaces, according to the company’s website.
The idea is to make housing in the Bay Area affordable. There is only monthly rent, no big deposit and the first and last month’s rent. Prospective residents need only apply online. Utilities and high speed internet are included.
The young company offers two houses: a mid-century house near California Avenue and a house in Bakersfield. The Palo Alto home offers on-site laundry facilities, outdoor space, monthly cleaning, and bright, open modern spaces.
The Palo Alto house can accommodate 14 people. The modules, which look like brightly lit stackable storage cubes, are arranged like bunk beds on two floors. They have their own temperature and air circulation control, storage space for electrical outlets and a rack for hanging clothes.
“They have 40% more space than bunk beds,” the company boasts on its website.
Company founders Christina Lennox and James Stallworth originally wanted to start their business in Brooklyn, New York, but shared housing issues prevented that from happening, Stallworth said in a Medium blog post. In late August, they launched the concept in Palo Alto with the goal of providing affordable housing in one of the hottest and least affordable housing markets in the country. They responded to a Craigslist ad for a home rental and the landlord liked the concept, Lennox said. The tenants are between 20 and 30 years old and are mostly interns at local companies such as Tesla and Telefèric Barcelona, and visiting researchers/students at Stanford.
“We’ve had residents from 15 countries. It’s really cool that walking around the house you can hear multiple languages like Spanish and German spoken,” Lennox said.
“Everyone who stays with us has loved the experience. They find an instant community here and form lifelong friendships. People have commented on how well-designed the house is because we really furnished and planned it to welcome everyone in. Something we get a lot is the pods are a lot bigger than they thought just looking at the pictures,” she said.
Parking was no problem, Lennox said.
“The great thing about being located in Palo Alto is that everyone bikes to work and school. We have room for 14 bikes in the backyard. It’s fun to see people moving in and buying a used bike from a local store instead of taking fossil-fueled long-distance transportation,” she said.
Stallworth, the company’s CEO, graduated from Stanford University with a bachelor’s degree in science, technology, and society. He is a former California State Auditor. Lennox, the chief operating officer, was an external state auditor who graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in criminology.
Lennox said the housing issue was deeply personal to her and Stallworth.
“James and I came up with versions of this concept before we met while working together at the California State Auditor’s office in Sacramento. I came to California from Arizona to complete a leadership school that offered housing through a network of people in the community who have opened rooms in their homes to students.
“After I graduated, the home opener told me she needed the room for her grandson and gave me a hard deadline to move. I couldn’t find accommodation and i considered living in my car or renting a carport before luckily finding friends.That’s when i started to think about how there had to be a way to share the costs and be able to move in in a flexible location for a few months on short notice without having to pay thousands of dollars upfront for security deposit and rent,” she says.
Stallworth also went through his own housing insecurity while finishing at Stanford. He always planned to start a business to solve other people’s problem when the time is right.
When Lennox and Stallworth met, they knew they worked well together, had a passion for housing people and had complementary skills, she said.
“Our position is that this is no different than any group of people who come together to rent a house, and we are not aware of any limits on the number of people who can live in shared accommodation. for decades Stanford students and others have been coming together to rent homes in Palo Alto with no problem.The only change here is the furniture we use – our pods – to accommodate more people in the house in an attractive and comfortable way “, she said.
Lennox said the company wanted to provide the service wherever it was needed.
“We have had a local business manager contact us, ahead of any news stories, to let them know when we are opening more homes in the area as they are struggling to get people to work for them so that they are opening new locations.. She said it’s impossible for people with entry-level salaries to find housing nearby. So yes, we would like to open more housing in Palo Alto and the Bay Area,” she said.
The company also still plans to launch in New York, given the dire need for low-cost, flexible housing there.
“We are still in contact with people in New York all the time asking when we’re going to start there because it would be a major improvement from their current living situation,” she said.