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.


Despite agreement, China purchase of US agriculture lags

Updated 10 August 2020

Despite agreement, China purchase of US agriculture lags

  • The two sides are set to meet on Saturday to discuss the deal, American media says

NEW YORK: Seven months after the United States and China signed a preliminary agreement to temper their trade war, Beijing’s purchases of US agricultural goods have yet to reach the deal’s target.

As President Donald Trump readies for a tough reelection battle in November, US media reported the two sides are set to meet beginning August 15 to discuss the deal, which calls for China to sharply increase buying American goods and services this year and next.

But according to data compiled by the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE), Chinese agricultural purchases at the end of June were far from where they should be at this point in the year.

They had reached only 39 percent of their semiannual target, according to US figures, or 48 percent, based on Chinese figures.

“If we get back to what the level of trade was in 2017, we’ll be lucky,” said Chad Bown, a PIIE senior fellow who authored the study, referring to the year before the trade war began.

Under the deal’s terms, China agreed to increase agricultural imports $32 billion over the next 2 years from 2017 levels.

Chinese orders for corn and soybeans have increased since mid-July, with Beijing buying just over 3 million tons of American oilseeds between July 14 and Aug. 7, according to US Department of Agriculture data.

At the end of July, the United States reported the largest-ever daily order by China for its corn, of 1.9 million tons.

The announcements were a relief to US farmers, who are expecting a bumper crop this year and need to find buyers to take it.

They also came at a time of high political tension between the two countries, after the Trump administration authorized sanctions against several Hong Kong leaders over the rights crackdown in the city, and restrictions on Chinese apps WeChat and TikTok.

The Chinese “realize we’re not being the best of buddies right now, but they need the products and they’re gonna take as much as they need,” said Jack Scoville, agricultural market analyst for Price Futures Group.

It’s possible that Beijing will change its orders from buying this year’s harvest to next year’s.

But analysts warn that any orders could be called off before the ships carrying them leave port.

Brazil and Argentina, two of the world’s largest soybean and corn producers, are starting their harvests next spring, said Brian Hoops, president of the brokerage firm Midwest Market Solutions.

China “could cancel all these purchases they made in July and buy at much cheaper prices if that’s available to them,” Hoops said.

The trade deal dubbed “phase one” and signed in January has managed to survive both the tensions and the sharp global economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which has badly hit international trade.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in June said China would follow through on its commitments, while Washington would also pursue a “phase two” trade deal that “will focus on issues of overcapacity, subsidization, disciplines on China’s state-owned enterprises, and cyber theft.”

Bown said any success in getting China to buy not just farm but also energy and manufactured goods, would aid Trump in his reelection campaign.