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How Will Co-Living Survive the Pandemic?

Co-living residents often pay a higher price per square footage for a bedroom than what their neighbors in traditional buildings might pay. Mr. Nevins pays $1,485 a month and has three roommates, in a seven-bedroom unit where the monthly rent is more than $8,800. According to StreetEasy, the median monthly rent for a three-plus bedroom in Williamsburg is $3,600. In the East Village, StreetEasy puts an apartment with three or more bedrooms at a median rent of $4,400. But at Mr. Hurtado-Burgos’s four-bedroom East Village Bungalow apartment, total rent exceeds $5,000.

“Co-living isn’t necessarily targeting people who need affordability,” said Nancy Wu, a StreetEasy economist. “If you’re looking to sign a one-year lease, there are lots of opportunities out there for cheaper apartments with two-to-three months worth of concessions.”

Richard Lustigman, director of co-living at JLL, a real estate services company, agrees that right now, there is increased interest in the traditional rental market because prices are so low. But in the long run, he says, after the pandemic is over, people will be drawn back to the co-living properties that provide more than just a room to rent.

Some of the amenities that have motivated co-living tenants to pay a premium are gradually coming back. Companies that canceled their cleaning services for residents at the beginning of the pandemic, or provided residents instead with weekly “hospitality kits” to clean their own spaces, are now bringing professional cleaners back into buildings.

The most elusive amenity that co-living companies originally offered is that of community. Marketing materials showed young residents making friends and having fun together in beautiful common areas. In the pandemic, co-living companies have emphasized other aspects of their model, since many of their common areas are closed or limited, and meeting new people presents a health risk.

Despite social distancing, companies and residents have found new, pandemic-appropriate ways to build connections within buildings. Marcy Snyder, a 22-year-old New York University student who is applying to medical school while taking her final classes online, recently hosted a picnic in the park for some of the residents in her Common building in Williamsburg. Ms. Snyder said she knew many people who have three-month lease agreements that they keep renewing.


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