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.


HSBC, StanChart shares fall to 22-year lows

Updated 22 September 2020

HSBC, StanChart shares fall to 22-year lows

  • Falls follow reports on movements of allegedly illicit funds; shares fall amid wider selloff in stocks

LONDON: HSBC’s shares in Hong Kong and Standard Chartered’s in London fell on Monday to their lowest since at least 1998 after media reports that they and other banks, including Barclays and Deutsche Bank, moved large sums of allegedly illicit funds over nearly two decades despite red flags about the origins of the money.

BuzzFeed and other media articles were based on leaked suspicious activity reports (SARs) filed by banks and other financial firms with the US Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen).

HSBC shares in London fell as much as 5 percent to 288 pence, their lowest intraday level since 2009, after the lender’s Hong Kong shares earlier touched a 25-year low. The stock has now nearly halved since the start of the year.

StanChart dropped as much as 4.6 percent in London to its lowest since 1998, against the backdrop of a broader sell-off in the market with the STOXX European banks index down 4.8 percent.

More than 2,100 SARs, which are in themselves not necessarily proof of wrongdoing, were obtained by BuzzFeed News and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and other media organizations.

In a statement to Reuters on Sunday, HSBC said “all of the information provided by the ICIJ is historical.” The bank said that as of 2012 it had embarked on a “multi-year journey to overhaul its ability to combat financial crime.”

StanChart said in a statement it took its “responsibility to fight financial crime extremely seriously and have invested substantially in our compliance programs.”

Barclays said it believes it has complied with “all its legal and regulatory obligations, including in relation to US sanctions.”

The most number of SARs in the cache related to Deutsche Bank, whose shares fell 5.2 percent on Monday. In a statement on Sunday, Deutsche Bank said the ICIJ had “reported on a number of historic issues.”

“We have devoted significant resources to strengthening our controls and we are very focused on meeting our responsibilities and obligations,” a spokesperson for the bank said.

London-headquartered HSBC and StanChart, among other global banks, have paid billions of dollars in fines in recent years for violating US sanctions on Iran and anti-money laundering rules.

The files contained information about more than $2 trillion worth of transactions between 1999 and 2017, which were flagged by internal compliance departments of financial institutions as suspicious. 

The ICIJ reported the leaked documents were a tiny fraction of the reports filed with FinCEN. HSBC and StanChart were among the five banks that appeared most often in the documents, the ICIJ reported.

“It confirms what we already knew — that there are huge numbers of SARs being filed with relatively low numbers of cases brought through to prosecution,” said Etelka Bogardi, a Hong Kong-based financial services regulatory partner at law firm Norton Rose Fulbright.