Three strangers are put in a house where they have separate bedrooms, but they must share a kitchen, bathroom and common living area. No, it’s not the premise for a reality show. Instead, it’s the premise for Common, a NYC-based startup that creates and manages communal living environments – a concept called co-living.

Co-living is a fairly logical extension of the tremendously popular coworking phenomenon. Coworking giant, WeWork, opened a co-living apartment on Wall Street in Manhattan in 2016, and it also has a co-living space in Washington, D.C.

But Common is quickly becoming a dominant player in co-living, having opened its eighth residence in NYC in July. It also has co-living residences in San Francisco, Chicago and Washington, D.C.

Half of Common’s eight co-living homes in NYC are in Crown Heights, Brooklyn (also home to Ignitia Office at 1002 Dean St.). Why is this? Common’s founder, Brad Hargreaves, said this is because of the neighborhood’s great restaurants, various things to do, and most importantly, it’s proximity to transportation – the 2, 3, 4, 5, A and C trains.

Hargreaves, by the way, is well positioned to create a co-living company because he was one of the founders of General Assembly (GA), a company that started in 2011 with a coworking offering that focused on space and community. Like GA’s initial business, Common is also about space and community. (GA pivoted and is now well-known as a technology school)

So what comes with a single bedroom at a Common home?

Starting at $1,340/mo. at one of Common’s homes, called Common Albany, you get:

  • a fully furnished room
  • free utilities
  • free wifi
  • free TV
  • free onsite laundry
  • free weekly cleaning
  • beautifully appointed shared kitchen
  • furnished shared living area
  • game room
  • private (well, not completely) backyard

And socially:

  • group brunch
  • movie watch-alongs
  • sports nights with neighbors

That’s a pretty long list of good stuff. Granted, for $1,450/mo., I just found a one bedroom in the same neighborhood. That’s just about $100 more to live all by yourself. But that apartment has none of the amenities listed above. And more importantly, the one bedroom has none of the social components.

Common is not for curmudgeons. From the looks of it, Common is for people who like people. And if you’re new to a big city, a community like Common could be a great alternative to finding a few roommates. In NYC, Common gives you access to 100+ roommates because it allows – and encourages – residents from one Common home to socialize with residents of another.

One might assume that Common’s homes cater exclusively to 20-somethings – recent college grads who travel light and need a place live inexpensively as they find a new job or work on a startup.

While some Common residents fit this profile, Hargreaves said that Common residents are more diverse. First of all, he said that the average resident is 30 and that most members are now on one-year leases.

Hypothetically, if I’m a lonely 76 year-old widow, could I live in a Common home?

“Of course!” Hargreaves said. “Common welcomes anyone, regardless of their age, gender, or occupation who is looking to join a community and engage with their neighbors. Our membership represents people from all walks of life, including those new to the city or even the country as well as people looking for a better roommate experience in the city they’ve lived in for years.”

Being a resident at a Common home is considered being a member of the Common community, which again, speaks to the kind of resident Common is looking for. Not someone who disappears into their room all day, everyday.

According to Hargreaves, potential members apply through an online application, and after a basic financial and background check, they are briefly interviewed to ensure that they are looking to join the kind of engaged community that Common offers.

There are several couples living at Common homes, but Common is not conducive for families with children. However, Hargreaves said that “co-living designed for families is something we expect to see in the near future as more people come to realize the value they can get from sharing space and amenities.”

While co-living has many clear benefits, I imagined someone who goes to work and fits within a company “culture” and then returns to a co-living home to fit into another “culture.” Does the individual get lost along the way? “In a Common home bedroom, can I hang up my own pictures?” I asked Hargreaves.

“Absolutely!” he said. “We encourage members to customize their private space to make it feel like the home that it is.”


– By Todd Stone