$1,200 a month bunk beds aim to help ease San Francisco's housing crisis

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- As part of our commitment to Building a Better Bay Area, we're spending a week tackling the housing crisis. San Francisco has some of the highest rents in the world, with the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment at more than $3,500. But what about the cost of renting no bedrooms at all? Here's a look at a company that believes "co-living" is the solution.

Would you live in a bunk bed for $1,200 a month?

If you're Elvina Beck, founder and user of PodShare -- absolutely. And it appears the concept is working.

San Francisco has the highest average rents in the world, with a two-bedroom apartment averaging just under $4,000 a month. So what Elvina did in 2012 was create a model to add housing density in existing structures, zoned for other uses. PodShare was born in Los Angeles out of necessity.


"Not everyone can afford microunits or their own apartment. I couldn't afford to live in Hollywood and Vine and I really wanted to. I was in production at the time and thought, well, if I could divvy up the rent, if I could include utilities, nobody had to pay security deposit, would they be willing to share?"

With the help of her father, Elvina designed bunk beds with steps for easy access. She equipped them with a television, small storage space and lights and put 10 in a 1,200 square-foot space. Pretty soon, one location in Los Angeles turned into five with another in Santa Monica on the way.

The Lower Nob Hill location is the first PodShare in San Francisco, housed in a 3,400 square-foot brick home that was sitting empty for a year. Asking price? $12,000 a month in rent.

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"Basically, what we're saying is in 3,400 square feet, why can't we put a person in every 100-square feet?" says Elvina as she tours the property, showcasing the open roof space, full kitchen, bathrooms and co-working space.

All of PodShare's 220 units across the six-location network are fully booked and Elvina has plans to one day go nationwide. Until then, she's focused on working with cities to solve a much bigger picture and asks this question.

"What about commercial buildings or M zones that have been sitting vacant? Because nobody is doing manufacturing in cities anymore. Why can't we adopt those into mixed-use and basically make group housing? I've converted a marijuana dispensary into a PodShare, a church and I'm looking at a karate studio at the moment."
Users, who in San Francisco are primarily millennial men in the tech industry, admit there can be a stigma being an adult, living in what is essentially a bunk bed.

"Absolutely. I think it's one of those things where you can knock it till you try it. That's what I did." Says Stephen Johnson, the founder of an advertising company for Instagrammers who is on a 6-month stay across the different locations in California.

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Stephan says he enjoys being around people with similar lifestyles and mindsets, which makes for peaceful coexisting. "There's something special about the people who stay here. And the way they think about the world and the way they do things."

Another young man, an engineer from Japan, Shun Yamada, says as a new immigrant, still learning English, it was hard to navigate websites and the traditional leasing process. Yamada plans to live in the PodShare for as long as he can during his time in the U.S.

"I had some problems looking for a place to live...I like this very much."

While the PodShare model of giving up privacy to live in a communal space with strangers isn't for everyone, there is a waiting list for all PodShare locations across California.

From Wednesday, July 31 through Wednesday, Aug. 6, ABC7 will have an in-depth look at housing issues throughout the Bay Area. We're searching for real solutions that will impact our communities.

Take a look at ABC7's latest stories and videos about efforts to Build a Better Bay Area.

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