New ‘co-living’ housing option spreads its wings in New York

Gil Hirak, head of US operations and community of Quarters, speaks with a colleague on the rooftop of Quarters Co-Living in New York City. (AFP)
Updated 12 August 2019

New ‘co-living’ housing option spreads its wings in New York

  • Companies reduce many traditional sources of friction between roommates

NEW YORK: Nandita Iyer landed in New York from Bombay without knowing anyone, but she did not want to live alone in a “sketchy studio.” So instead she opted for a room in a “co-living” unit.
She lives with roommates in one of the 14 apartments in a small building run by the housing startup Quarters in the trendy Lower East Side neighborhood.
The best part of the arrangement, she said, are the common areas: A large kitchen with a big table and comfy couches, a terrace where she can work and a luxurious rooftop patio.
“I met people from such different backgrounds. And I became very good friends with them,” she said.
And she even found mentors to help with her job search.
Group living arrangements are not new: Many people have lived with roommates, in student dormitories or retirement homes.
But with housing costs skyrocketing in major cities and amid changing lifestyles, start-up companies are offering to take care of everything for renters, including the social life of their residents.
Demand for these new group housing arrangements is on the rise, especially among young people aged 18 to 35 — the millennials — so more and more projects are appearing on the rental landscape.
Real estate brokers Cushman & Wakefield estimated in May that the major US co-living startups had about 3,200 rooms available with 16,700 in the pipeline. The new players include Quarters, Common, Ollie, Starcity, X Social Communities, The Collective and WeLive.
Quarters manages three residences in New York and Chicago and is preparing to grow quickly. Its German-based parent company, Medici Living, just raised $300 million to expand in the US market, in addition to €1 billion to develop in Europe.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Amenities are more sophisticated than at Quarters: Residents have access to a gym, golf simulator and top floor with open views of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.

• Like many coliving providers, Ollie’s boasts that it organizes social events several times a week, like museum visits or cooking classes.

• It also allows residents to communicate with each other on a dedicated application.

“We provide an easy solution for people looking to move into big cities,” said Gil Hirak, head of US operations for Quarters.
From the virtual tour to the signing of the lease, everything can be done online. Then “you just move in with a suitcase,” since units are furnished.
The companies also reduce many traditional sources of friction between roommates by taking care of all the practical details: Basic products such as toilet paper, cleaning, internet or electricity bills.
“During the week, we’re so busy. Housekeeping is really helpful,” said resident Eric Tauro, a 29-year-old architect.
After finishing his studies he was “researching what would be the easiest way” to move to New York.
He set his sights on Ollie’s third project in a large new building in fast-growing Long Island City. The startup occupies a third of floors in the complex, with 422 beds available in 169 apartments.
Amenities are more sophisticated than at Quarters: Residents have access to a gym, golf simulator and top floor with open views of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.
Like many coliving providers in the city, Ollie’s boasts that it organizes social events several times a week, like museum visits or cooking classes.
It also allows residents to communicate with each other on a dedicated application.


Lebanon central bank reassures foreign investors about deposits

Updated 25 January 2020

Lebanon central bank reassures foreign investors about deposits

  • Khalaf Ahmad Al-Habtoor asked if there was any risk to dollar deposits
  • The heavily indebted country’s crisis has shaken confidence in banks

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s central bank said on Saturday there would be no “haircut” on deposits at banks due to the country’s financial crisis, responding to concerns voiced by a UAE businessman about risks to foreign investments there.

Emirati Khalaf Ahmad Al-Habtoor, founder of the Al-Habtoor Group that has two hotels in Beirut, posted a video of himself on his official Twitter account asking Lebanon’s central bank governor if there was any risk to dollar deposits of foreign investors and whether there could be any such haircut.

“The declared policy of the Central Bank of Lebanon is not to bankrupt any bank thus preserving the depositors. Also the law in Lebanon doesn’t allow haircut,” the Banque Du Liban (BDL) said in a Twitter post addressed to Al-Habtoor, from Governor Riad Salameh.

“BDL is providing the liquidity needed by banks in both Lebanese pound and dollars, but under one condition that the dollars lent by BDL won’t be transferred abroad.”

“All funds received by Lebanese banks from abroad after November 17th are free to be transferred out,” it added on its official Twitter account.

The heavily indebted country’s crisis has shaken confidence in banks and raised concerns over its ability to repay one of the world’s highest levels of public debt.

Seeking to prevent capital flight as hard currency inflows slowed and anti-government protests erupted, banks have been imposing informal controls on access to cash and transfers abroad since last October.

A new government was formed this week, and its main task is to tackle the dire financial crisis that has seen the Lebanese pound weaken against the dollar.

Al-Habtoor had asked Salameh for clarity for Arab investors concerned about the crisis and those thinking of transferring funds to Lebanon to try to “help the brotherly Lebanese.”