Housing in California became so expensive that San Francisco residents were willing to spend $900 on a 4ft pod to save money.
California’s housing crisis drove a mass migration out of the state, with 500,000 more people leaving than arriving over a two-year period.
Brownstone Shared Housing came up with a creative solution for overpriced housing with their communal living pods. Each capsule is 4 feet wide and 4 feet high – barely big enough for a double mattress and not nearly high enough to stand in.
The pods range from $500 to $900 per month – which sounds high for a glorified closet, but compared to other rental properties on the market, it’s a bargain.
San Francisco is exploring the low-cost housing option after it became clear that developers may not have had the proper permits to build their pod complex.
California’s housing crisis has led to a creative solution to excessive rents: a 4-foot-long pod in a community house that costs $900 a month
The pod is 1.20 meters long and 1.20 meters high – just big enough for a single bed – and includes a number of features such as a charging point, LED lighting and temperature control
The pod living homes have communal areas for their residents to enjoy
The idea of small pod houses came from Japan’s “coffin house,” which was Tokyo’s solution for housing the unemployed during the country’s 2009 recession.
According to real estate finding website Zillow, the average studio apartment in San Francisco costs a whopping $2,200 per month.
The average studio apartment in Palo Alto, home to tech moguls and the center of Silicon Valley, is even more expensive at $2,300 per month.
The much cheaper small living spaces offer a basic pod for sleeping and amenities such as charging stations, LED lighting and individual climate control systems.
Christian Lewis – founder of an AI start-up and tenant of the SF pods – said: “I actually put off coming to San Francisco for a really long time, but it was definitely positive without a doubt. In the first few days alone I met some of the smartest people I have met in my entire life. That’s why I came and that’s why I’m staying. That’s why I live in a pod.’
Lewis announced he would live in San Francisco’s pod community for 30 days, paying $700 a month in rent. He seemed to be enjoying his stay so far, having met “a lot of cool people.”
He shared on X (formerly Twitter) that there were several AI founders and indie hackers at Mint Plaza and said that “the lounges downstairs are actually nice.”
Brownstone Shared Housing founders James Stallworth and Cristina Lennox were inspired to come up with a solution to unaffordable housing after experiencing similar problems themselves.
The pair developed the creative idea of shared pod homes while working together in the California State Auditor’s office in the state capital, Sacramento.
They launched their first affordable communal home in Palo Alto in 2021, combining the concept of pod living – popular in parts of Asia – with all the comforts of a fully furnished home.
The first podhouse went so well that they decided to expand to San Francisco, Bakersfield and San Jose.
Stallworth said: ‘We’ve created these sleeper cabins that landlords can put in their homes.
‘And so instead of renting to a smaller group of people, more people can share a house. The price we end up asking for a sleeping pod is a fraction of what people would pay if they split a room in a house… which would be closer to $2,000.”
The founders of Brownstone Shared Housing have been investigated by the city of San Francisco after allegedly failing to obtain the proper permits for their mission to build affordable housing
The shared living spaces in the pod community have become a great place for young technology entrepreneurs and AI developers to network
Christian Lewis – founder of an AI start-up and tenant of the SF pods – said: ‘In the first few days alone I met some of the smartest people I’ve met in my entire life. That’s why I came and that’s why I’m staying. That’s why I live in a capsule’
Stallworth and Lennox were surprised when the tenants of their Palo Alto home – between the ages of 18 and 35 – continued to live in the house for six months to a year, despite there being no minimum rent requirement.
The Palo Alto home is technically leased to Brownstone Shared Housing, but the communal pod living has prompted an investigation by the city of San Francisco into whether the developers, Lennox and Stallworth, had the proper permits in place before developing their alternative residential concept.
According to Palo Alto Online, the pair have implemented an organizational system to give everyone equal drawer, cupboard and refrigerator space and everyone is responsible for the cleanliness of their own pod, with a cleaner coming every two weeks to clean the common areas.
In addition to personal amenities, the communal living situation at Mint Plaza also includes shared living spaces.
The common areas have become a good place to network in San Francisco’s emerging technology and artificial intelligence industry.