Co-Living Goes Affordable: New York offers city financing to encourage developers to build co-living projects that are below market rate.

By Stefanos

The co-living trend — in which renters lease sleeping quarters that are often tiny, and share common living space with roommates — now has the city’s official backing.

On Thursday, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development is expected to announce a pilot program that will allow developers to vie for public financing to create a more affordable version of the dorm-style living arrangement that has emerged in some of the city’s priciest neighborhoods. Much of what already exists is at or above market rate, with some buildings offering additional amenities to residents.

The city’s pilot, called ShareNYC, will seek proposals for private development sites that favor mostly income-restricted units, including those for very low-income renters. The units will vary in design, but will likely run between 150 and 400 square feet per bedroom, may or may not have private bathrooms, and will include a common kitchen and living space that is shared with other roommates, according to a briefing on the program and an agency official. A mix of conventional and market-rate units will also be considered. The deadline for submissions is March 14, 2019.

Versions of this kind of housing have already sprung up around the city, but restrictions on the maximum number of unrelated roommates (up to three), and constraints on most ground-up construction in this category, sometimes called “single-room occupancy,” or S.R.O., have limited what developers can build.

Some of these existing co-living arrangements may be less expensive to rent than larger, conventional units, but still veer toward luxury prices. With this pilot, city officials are hoping to create new models of shared housing that will bring down construction costs and incentivize the creation of more affordable units.

“It’s really a decision that reflects what we see in the world — a shortage of small apartments,” said Maria Torres-Springer, the department’s commissioner, who noted that about two-thirds of households in the city consist of just one or two people, yet less than half of available housing caters to them…..

….For many struggling New Yorkers, co-living is just another name for informal room-sharing, said Sarah Watson, the deputy director of the Citizens Housing and Planning Council, a nonprofit research organization.

“We’re moving toward nontraditional households, and our housing stock hasn’t quite caught up yet,” she said. According to the group’s 2017 census analysis, almost a quarter of New York adults were unmarried, considered low-income (making $58,481 a year or less), and living in a shared apartment with family or roommates. The data also dispel the stereotype that only the very young and relatively affluent seek these arrangements: Among that group, the median income was $22,000 and the median age was 36, she said.