The rebirth of rooming houses?

Today’s Wall Street Journal has an interesting article [subscription required] on the re-birth of boarding houses [h/t to Manoj].

Back around the turn of the 20th century, as immigrants flooded into major cities, developers built rooming houses where you could rent very small accommodations, often with share bathrooms.

Eventually, zoning codes halted the construction of this type of housing, under the theory that it was too dense for human habitation.

Now, with young people coming into cities and housing prices in major cities going crazy, the reporter examines a group of companies attempting to build what are essentially 21st century rooming houses.

I, of course, would love to develop this kind of housing. After all, by cramming more people into a given space, you give yourself the opportunity to generate much higher rent per square foot than is generally possible in conventional apartments.

And LA obviously needs this type of housing. There are tons of kids coming into town who can afford $800-1,000 / month, which is not enough to rent a studio in most neighborhoods, but is enough to make the model work on a rooming house.

The problem, as with almost every type of development in LA, is the parking. So long as the city insists on having two spaces per 2-3 bed unit, developing rooming houses is infeasible.

And that means young people are going to continue to suffer in the rental market… and the city is going to suffer, too, because we’re going to be deprived of the talents and energy of a whole bunch of people who decide to move to Austin or Detroit or wherever.