For a recent long weekend visit to Los Angeles I booked myself two nights at Podshare, a hostel marketed as a ‘co-living’ space. Podshare encourages both long-term and short stays and offers the ability to easily move between each of its five Los Angeles locations, as well as locations in San Francisco and San Diego.
My nightly rate of $55 got me a cozy ‘pod’ – a sturdy bunk, accessed by a small staircase, which had a twin mattress and a tiny amount of floor space where I could stow my two duffel bags. In the communal kitchen area I had a designated “Pod 6” locker for my valuables, as well as shelves in the fridge and pantry.
A bunk to sleep in, communal kitchen and bathrooms – from my traveler’s perspective it was a typical hostel. Though, it did feel uniquely homey and personable. There were ample items free for “community” use: rice, cereal, trail mix, coffee and tea in the kitchen; shampoo, conditioner and body wash in the shower.
The cozy atmosphere was also due to Sarah, the employee who oversaw my check in. When I arrived she warmly greeted me, gave me a tour of the space, and told me to help myself to the salad and vegan chicken nuggets she’d just cooked. Sarah exuded ‘den mother’ energy, and an enthusiasm for her job. She lived on site, which is common for hostel employees (who usually exchange work for free rent.)
What I liked about Podshare
…is how its business model directly addresses California’s short supply of housing in a creative way, by repurposing small commercially-zoned buildings into communal living spaces. The location I stayed at was within a block of Los Angeles Children’s Hospital, making it a great option for traveling nurses and medical students in residency who need lodging for only a month or two at a time.
I also liked its emphasis on the benefits of co-living. One of the questions on the FAQ page is: “Is Podsharing Safe?” The answer is that an open floor plan, and lack of privacy, are a deterrent for thieves. Theft operates in secrecy. Also, someone is always within earshot if you need help. “Safety in numbers” is, indeed, one of the many benefits of living with others.
That being said, Podshare is completely different from shared housing. It is best suited for travelers, or people moving to Los Angeles who need a temporary place to stay while they search for a more comfortable long-term situation. Sure, it is a “co-living space”, but it’s a space filled mostly by a rotating set of temporary co-tenants. That’s much different than having a stable housemate (or mates) that you take the time to build a warm, trusting relationship with.
What I think is potentially bad
…is that the “sharing economy” touted by companies like AirBnb have us in the wrong mindset. Sharing isn’t something that can be monetized. Sharing is a thing that happens person-to-person, not something that you can outsource to a company. ‘Co-living’ does not necessarily make a home, and a communal space run by a business is much different than a home you create with other individuals.
I worry that the proliferation of companies like AirBnb and Podshare will make us all (especially younger people) begin to neglect the interpersonal skills needed to create community. Constantly traveling from place to place makes it hard to build and cultivate communication, consideration, time and attention – key skills for being a good neighbor or housemate. Sharing can be tough! There is work involved in creating a comfortable, mutually-agreed upon domestic space and dealing with the inevitable conflicts that arise.
The good news
…is that more and more people are taking a flexible view of work and living situations. Digital nomadism boomed during the pandemic as millions of workers were able to untether from an office and do their work remotely, from a laptop. As more people forgo the traditional ‘American dream’ of home ownership in favor of full-time travel, we are bound to see more companies like Podshare that offer flexible, alternative styles of housing and living with others. Because, young people are interested in communal living. They realize how our society’s emphasis on individualism and self-reliance has led to endemic levels of depression and is also one of the causes of our nationwide housing shortage (and resulting high cost).
Entrepreneurship may help alleviate some of the housing crisis, but we as individuals are also empowered to solve our housing dilemmas. That’s where the resources of Sharing Housing Inc. come in. The information on this website, and in Annamarie’s book, walk you step-by-step through personal examination (knowing your “must-haves” in a living situation), finding suitable home mates and handling household conflict. Ultimately you create your own shared housing, which can take any form that you wish.
Check out this previous Sharing Housing blog post about a Millennials-only co-living facility.