In response to California’s ongoing housing crisis, a new startup is offering a unique and affordable solution: pods.
Brownstone Shared Housing, with locations in Palo Alto, San Francisco, and Bakersfield, has converted two homes and office space into dwellings for dozens of people, with rents ranging from $500 to $900 per month.
The basic pods, which are only 3.5 feet wide and 4 feet tall, are just big enough to fit a twin mattress. Despite their small size, they come equipped with amenities such as charging stations, LED lights, and individual climate control systems. However, most residents will need to utilize storage lockers for their belongings, as the pods do not have much storage space.
At first glance, these tiny sleeping spaces may seem like an unconventional and uncomfortable housing option. But for many Californians, it is a much-needed alternative to the skyrocketing rents in the state.
According to Zillow, the median studio apartment rents for $2,300 in Palo Alto, $2,200 in San Francisco, and $995 in Bakersfield. This makes Brownstone’s offering a more affordable option for those struggling to find affordable housing.
Christian Lewis, the founder of an artificial intelligence startup, is currently living in the San Francisco pod community for a month. He shared his experience on social media, saying, “There’s a lot of cool people here too.” Lewis also noted that the building is occupied by about 20 people and features five bathrooms and two showers.
For the founders of Brownstone Shared Housing, James Stallworth and Christina Lennox, the need for affordable housing hits close to home. Stallworth, who grew up in San Bernardino, found himself struggling to find affordable housing during his time as a student at Stanford University. He ended up living in a basement hacker house with 20 child-sized bunk beds, and this experience inspired him to find a better solution for others facing similar challenges.
Lennox, who had also faced housing insecurity, met Stallworth while working at the California state auditor’s office. Together, they quit their jobs and started their company three years ago. Their first pod house, a converted rental home in Palo Alto, opened a year later.
The success of their first location led to the expansion of Brownstone Shared Housing, with the Bakersfield pods located in a house owned by Lennox. Stallworth and Lennox now have a total of 50 beds between their three properties, and demand is only growing.
“Our goal is to solve the problem,” Stallworth said of the housing crisis. “So, we’re definitely planning on expanding.”
While pods may not be a permanent or ideal solution for everyone, they offer a creative and affordable option for those struggling to find housing in California’s competitive market. And for many, they provide a sense of community and belonging, making them more than just a temporary living space.