Extremely high and still rising rents in cities like New York, Los Angeles, London and Vancouver are a big issue of contention. Is the problem due to rampant real estate speculation by foreign absentee investors? Too many luxury condos and not enough affordable housing being built? Platforms like Airbnb potentially transforming rental stock into lucrative vacation rentals for tourists? It's hard to pinpoint the exact causes, but what is certain is that ordinary people are being squeezed out. While some have proposed building micro-apartments as a solution, others are coping with more DIY measures.
Take Paul Berkowitz, an illustrator based in San Francisco's Bay Area -- probably one of the most expensive places to rent in the country (the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is pegged at USD $3,670 a month). He's built a small wooden pod in a friend's apartment that serves as his bedroom and workspace. He pays $400 per month (his roommates pay $1,000 each), plus an extra $108 per month for the next year to cover the pod's construction costs.
Yes, living in a pod is silly. But the silliness is endemic to San Francisco's absurdly high housing prices. I am legitimately very happy living in my pod and am saving thousands of dollars per year doing so.
One can enter through a small sliding door at one end of the box. Inside, a bed dominates most of the living space. There is a slanted headboard that can open, revealing a bit of storage. There's a shelf and a window that lets natural light in, though there are a string of LED lights to provide more light and ambience. Berkowitz uses a fold-down desk to work, and there is a fan and built-in ventilation.
Berkowitz built the 8-foot long and 4.5-foot high pod in the living room earlier last month using plywood, and moved in for April. He got some help from friends who had some power tools handy, and intends to improve it further by adding some extra conveniences for his roommates:
I'm putting bookshelves on the side and probably the top. Also thinking about building a bench for a dining room table – the pod shouldn't just take up space but actually improve the room.
It's reminiscent of some coffin-sized apartments we've seen in Tokyo and in fact, Berkowitz was inspired by Japanese capsule hotels, as well as by a college friend who set up a tent in his living room as a hang-out space. He believes that there should be more room for creative solutions like his in the search for affordable housing:
If pods can provide an attractive way to add a bedroom to an apartment, I think they could help a lot of people out. People with the extra space wanting to bring in more money by subletting, people looking for cheap and simple housing, or people wanting to add another bedroom so their friend can move in could all benefit.
While Berkowitz stresses that he didn't do this out of poverty or desperation, building temporary pods is probably not a long-term solution to the various housing crises we are seeing develop in cities around the world. It's a complex problem, and it'll most likely take more complex solutions. More over at Dezeen and The Washington Post.
UPDATE: Following the coverage of this quirky sleeping pod, Berkowitz announced plans to start selling some to interested customers. According to SFGate: "Those plans were quickly stopped by the San Francisco's chief housing inspector Rosemary Bosque who told Hoodline that 'pods are illegal and a violation of housing, building, and fire safety codes.'"