Will Communal Living Make Another Comeback In NYC?

This cyclical trending seems to be at work with the idea of communal living in the big apple.

By Team Agorafy August 2, 2016
Credit: Annie Spratt

NYC, home of bespoke mayonnaise, glasses of absinthe and clip on man-buns. We always seem to be at the vanguard of the latest trends, both innovative and silly. And, they say if you just wait long enough, what has become passe will eventually come around again if you just give it enough time. This cyclical trending seems to be at work with the idea of communal living. Obviously the concept of living among like-minded people is nothing new. Israelis do it with Kibbutzim, hippies did it in the sixties, and there are Ashrams a-plenty in India and even in New York City. But these new living experiences neither isolate themselves from the rest of the world nor do they practice one type of religion, diet or political viewpoint. Instead they tout learning from disparate cultures, offer the possibility of new romance and in some instances, are more cost effective than signing a lease on a 200 square foot studio in Queens.

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Pure House—even though the name sounds like a creepy alien abduction cult—is, in reality, the new wave of communal living in New York City. In April 2016, We Live, operated by the co-working We Work people, started their communal living facility in lower Manhattan—near Wall Street. Ironic? Maybe so.

We Live seems to have it all in a commitment free atmosphere: yoga rooms, roof deck, hot tub, laundry room, a bar, and even a full chef’s kitchen is among the amenities that come with the price of residency. Rooms in communal living houses are usually fully furnished, with internet, cable, toilet paper and sometimes even beer—included in the rental price.

Pure House is a former doll factory and sits right smack-dab in the middle of the hipster capital of the world: Williamsburg, Brooklyn. With no credit check and only a thirty-day member agreement, this space is also amenity laden: massage anyone? This facility will cost you as little as $1600 a month for a shared room and bath, or you can pay $2,550 for a private studio apartment with a bathroom.

New York City is no doubt a place where you can feel alone in a crowd and Pure House, We Live, as well as other communal housing like Common —a company valued at $20 million and just bought real estate in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights—sell these experiences as a cure-all to loneliness with insta-community.

Elizabeth Surtees from Australia arrived in Brooklyn last month and lives in communal housing.  She shares why she chose communal living over flying solo, “I wanted to be surrounded by artists and like-minded people. I live with five others: a sculptor, a screen writer, a musician, an actress and health food shop employee- oh, and a cat named Bones!  We are all in our late 20s / early 30s and clean up after ourselves. I’m a makeup and visual artist. This kind of living gave me the opportunity to do my flatmate’s makeup for her theater show! The rooftop view of Manhattan is breathtaking and the rent is cheap for NYC.”

Communal living companies appeal to artists and recent grads who haven’t yet, or don’t wish to put their footprint in concrete in the Big Apple. The flexibility it offers can’t be found in a one-year lease in this famously overpriced real estate market.

Will communal living catch on or will it be a flash in the pan like finding a Pokemon in Central Park? According to Bloomberg, Common received more than 300 applications for 19 bedrooms in its first space. If that’s an indication of how New Yorkers are adapting to an ever changing real estate environment, put on the kettle and let’s have a cup of tea—together.

Team Agorafy



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