As much as travel can open you up to the world, it can also be isolating — especially if you’re renting out a room by yourself.
Bruno Haid hopes that won’t be the case for his co-living spaces, which are designed for jetsetters, digital nomads, and itinerant workers.
Haid is the founder of Roam, a company that’s developing and renting out co-living spaces across the world. “Roamers,” as the company calls its customers, sign a flexible lease that gives them access to all of Roam’s locations around the world.
The residences attempt to marry two spheres that most people keep separate: work and home life. The model is somewhat similar to WeWork’s communal living project WeLive, which provides renters with fully furnished private rooms and access to common spaces where they can cook or mingle with other WeLive members. But Roam’s model caters more towards travellers and digital workers who can do their jobs remotely.
“The majority of people of people are reluctant extroverts,” Haid tells Business Insider of Roam’s clientele. “Once you’re in an environment where you feel really safe and understood and have your privacy, and gain some trust through our environment, it’s really a positive way into [co-living].”
Roam customers sign leases for pre-defined blocks of time: $500 per week (the minimum lease is for 1 week) or $1,800 a month.
The lease gives each Roam user access to a private, fully-furnished bedroom that’s equipped with a desk, fast Wi-Fi, and an en-suite bathroom. Each facility also has co-living and co-working spaces that include a media center, pool, shared kitchen, and event space. All bedrooms also come with cleaning services.
Right now, there are three Roam locations, in Madrid, Miami, and Bali. The company plans to open a fourth in San Francisco on Monday, September 19. London and Tokyo locations are planned to open before the end of the year, and a Buenos Aires outpost is coming in the near future.
During the period of their lease, Roamers are free to move between the locations, staying as little or long as they’d like in each one. The company recommends giving 24 hours’ notice before switching locations to ensure availability.
$1,800 might sound expensive to those who don’t live in San Francisco or New York City. But tenants at WeLive’s location in Manhattan’s Financial District pay just as much without the ability to move between cities. Plus, for travellers who plan to stay in one location for a couple weeks, $500 might be cheaper than a week at many hotels.
That’s not the case in Bali, however, where the average rent and cost of living is a fraction of what Roam charges. But Haid says the price covers more than just rent and upkeep, since the company is using the Bali location as a testing ground for experimental services. Roam is currently operating a daycare there, where they pay caretakers above-market wages.
Haid says he got the idea for Roam when he was working on founding several small tech companies, and hopping between major cities to do so.
“I grew up in Austria and in the hospitality industry and ended up not being able to afford cities like New York or San Francisco. When I’d go from city to city, I’d crash on couches and house-sit for friends,” he says, adding, “Housing was always an issue until five years ago when a friend had this idea — let’s convert this place that’s old, that’s been empty for 20 years. Let’s try to think it over and try to turn it into a co-living space.”
In the January 2015, Haid started beta testing Roam with its first location in Bali. The company officially launched in April, with a second location in Miami. The Madrid location opened in early June.
Each space has a different number of rooms and its own idiosyncrasies — Bali has 24 rooms, and the 38-room Miami location is inside what was once the city’s oldest inn. The company’s most peculiar location is in Madrid — the space is in a monastery with six bedrooms.
Roam is also making sure all its living spaces are all occupied by diverse communities. Prospective members have to go through a vetting process as a part of their application.
“We wanted to balance the community so it’s not only 25-year-old mostly male, mostly white developers from San Francisco,” Haid says. “That’s why we requested a little bit more data, so we have a truly healthy community.”
And even though you have to be fairly well off to afford the travel costs and the lease, Roam might be a step in a promising new direction for housing. The company is easing people who can afford private homes into the idea that, with the right crowd, privacy might not need to extend far beyond your bedroom and bathroom. That may even convince people to give denser living arrangements a try, which could help ease housing pressures in crowded cities.
“So this idea — that if we can offer people privacy but also at the same time provide a communal lifestyle, like a shared break room or kitchen — might make a lot of sense,” Haid says. “And that’s the way a lot of people may want it.”
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