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The Affluent Homeless: A Sleeping Pod, a Hired Desk and a Handful of Clothes (npr.org)
67 points by jameslk 31 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 97 comments



> He's part of a new-ish group of young people. He's educated and owns his own business. He could be considered well off, but he's also, in a way, homeless. By choice.

> There are two big reasons for this shift: the price of housing and student loan debt. A little more than a third of millennials currently own homes, a rate lower than Generation X and baby boomers when they were the same age.

That's the very definition of not by choice. This current effort to rebrand millennials not owning anything as a positive lifestyle choice based on happy clappy sharing economy "choosing experiences" BS is really nefarious.

Given the choice, Millennials would own. They "choose experiences" because they can't afford to own stuff.


The article does say that some do it by choice, but a lot "rent and share because they're broke and they need to save money."


It reeks of rationalization. They don't want to admit to themselves that they got dealt a bad hand, so pretend that they own nothing and rent their entire life by choice.

It's like breaking someone's kneecaps, and they say they're in the wheelchair by choice, because walking is dangerous and inefficient, and knees are a horrible leg-joint design anyway.

They never had a choice, so they invent the illusion of choice by retroactively justifying that they would have chosen what they have now if they actually did have a different option that some might have considered to be objectively better.

I am well familiar with this. I consciously unwant the things that I want, but cannot afford, all the time. No, I don't need a car manufactured after 2010. No, I prefer to stay at home for my vacation. Eating out is for people who can't shop and cook. The current crop of movies in theaters seems pretty lame. I can wait another season for new tires. We can have strips of skirt steak instead of top sirloin. In fact, how about roaster chicken instead of beef?

It's bullshit that I shovel over myself, and I know it. If I had more money, I would definitely buy more and better stuff with it--to own and not rent.


If you want to control a situation, you change the narrative.


It always baffles me how the proponents of the share economy do not see its downside: If you do not own what you use, you don't control it. Individual, motorized, traffic has a huge negative impact, that's clear. But how about it enables you to travel whereever you want whenever you want? Owning a house or an apartment might seem unnecessary in our modern society, until the next rent increase or some disturbance in your financial situation (assuming you're not sitting on a huge mortgage).

And why does nobody talk about how we have to pay every fucking minute, regardless what we do, in the share economy? Maybe you spend less money for each activity, compared to owning, but maybe you are just paying more often?

And finally, what about responsibility? If I own nothing, do I ever care about something? Who cares about the gearbox of a rented car? Just have a look at the interior of your average subway train. When the street I live in gets to dirty, why not simply move away?

While I love to be able to rent things that I cannot or don't want to own, I have the impression that this "share everything" paradigm is actually just a toxic mixture of permanent monetarization and centralised control.


>It always baffles me how the proponents of the share economy do not see its downside:

They do, that’s why they are behind all these PR/fluff pieces like this one that promotes the “affluent homeless” life style.

You to can live the homeless dream and own two pairs of clothes...working when you want and where you want. Best part is you won’t get any benefits, like health insurance.

It used to be any riff-raff could achieve the homeless lifestyle without even a job, but big tech is classing up the streets. Now everyone thank big tech making homelessness great again...just don’t shit on the sidewalks.


"It used to be any riff-raff could achieve the homeless lifestyle without even a job, but big tech is classing up the streets. Now everyone thank big tech making homelessness great again...just don’t shit on the sidewalks. "

The upper crust of society was always good at promoting things the lower ranks should do for them. Same with war. The little guys usually have nothing to gain from war but the big guys give them ribbons and "valor" to make it cool to go to war and die for them.


You thought this article was promoting this sad life living in a flophouse?


Yes, after all the article is promoting rental services WeWork (you to can pretend to be an employed tech worker while homeless) and REI rentals (for the millennial homeless who no longer own their own tents but rent them)...both of which are financial sponsors of the publisher.

And just in case you weren’t convinced how great the life is, they throw in a PhD quote promoting these “choices”, odds are the PhD will be homeless soon too and hoping their qoute will get them a job.

Curious how you read anything but promotion into this article?


> Curious how you read anything but promotion into this article?

So for starters, it's clearly a "straight news" piece, so the overall tone is neutral (not promotional), but the subtext is pretty obviously negative:

1) The tragic photo at the top of the piece.

2) Highlights the role of adverse circumstances: "There are two big reasons for this shift: the price of housing and student loan debt." / "But a lot rent and share because they're broke and they need to save money."

3) Ends with this quote focusing on how unsustainable it is: "It's not something that you can do forever, because you do need to have a place that you can genuinely point to and say, this is my home," he says.


1) tragic photo? It’s a promotional photo complete with positive quote from the person how great the life style is.

2) the entire article highlights how this is a lifestyle choice...and you cherry-picked the sole comparative quote acknowledging not all homeless are affluent and homeless by choice.

From the NPR financial sponsors:

>"We're selling joy," he says. "We're selling inspiration when you get out on a trail or go for a bike ride. We're selling the adrenaline buzz at the end of a run, and we're just trying to enable that in any way we possibly can."

3). Right...”you can’t do it forever” we shouldn’t be speaking about homelessness in these terms. Nothing is going to change to make these homeless people not broke and magically be able to go out and buy a home.


Re: #2 -- read more carefully -- I highlighted two separate quotes from different paragraphs in the piece.

And I'll wager the journalist chose that quote about "selling joy" to emphasize how ridiculous it sounds. There's a degree of dramatic irony at work here; you have to understand how to read between the lines.

e.g. here's one of the author's colleagues at NPR retweeting the "Hilarious story from @samsanders" https://twitter.com/pgogoi/status/1120711647323197440

I guarantee you NPR journos do not think everyone should live in "PodShares"


>And I'll wager the journalist chose that quote about "selling joy" to emphasize how ridiculous it sounds... you have to understand how to read between the lines.

The qoute is from their financial sponsor...the “journalist” is not picking quotes, and they are not mocking their sponsors “ridiculous” quotes, they are being paid ...and they are pushing their sponsors brand new rental business.


Sorry, why are you putting the word "journalist" in scare quotes? Is your assertion that Sam Sanders is not a journalist?

I think your interpretation badly misunderstands the relationship between journalists and sources quoted. Every reputable publisher has a strict separation between the advertising/business side of the organization and the editorial side.[0]

[0] https://ethics.journalism.wisc.edu/2012/12/19/breaking-down-...


Owning things also brings liabilities. Hit a pothole and pop a car tire -> 250 dollars down the drain. Own a house and roof starts leaking? -> 10k dollars down the drain. There are certainly a huge class of people for which owning a car or a house makes sense, but there are also a lot of people who might be able to afford a car, but when compared to the total costs of maintenance + depreciation + unexpected repairs + parking + insurance + time spent keeping it running (getting gas, finding parking, taking it to the shop), going Car less and using uber + transit + bike + rentals on weekends makes much more sense


It's not like the pothole ceased to exist, or the need for a new tire, or house, or roof, etc. Someone will still own those things, still be responsible for fixing them. And they will pass those costs on to the renter. So are you really saving money? It's like buying everything at a convenience store. That convenience has value, and an associated cost.

I guess for people who are comfortable forever being tenants, it could work pretty well. Certainly there is a class of people who are comfortable being the landlord.


It's not about saving money; it's about not having the savings and resources to deal with unpredictable costs. That's the situation for a lot of people.


Sorta like the allegory of the boot, I imagine.

To be fair, though, you can buy insurance for those unpredictable costs.


But that increases the cost of owning to the point where the difference in 'renting' might not be significant.


I mean, these things are all priced into renting. There's some virtue in paying them in a predictable, steady rate instead of getting spikes of bad luck, but it's not like you pay less for car tires on an Uber, or for roofs in a rental unit, than you do as a car owner or a home owner. And if you want predictability, you should be able to get insurance, or just reserve a chunk of your income for a "home maintenance fund."

(EDIT: I guess that to the extent that you live in a multi-story rental building, you and other renters above and below you share the costs of the single roof above you. But that's, first, not the major cost of home ownership, second, not applicable to all renting, and third, probably a small enough savings that it's eaten up by profits to your landlord and the costs of maintaining a super.)


This assumes a perfectly efficient market with no opportunity for arbitrage.

Sometimes what you can get in rent is less than what it costs to maintain a property, but it’s still better than letting it remain empty. Assuming the owner is even that financially disciplined. And again, sometimes people just don’t understand the finances.

Sometimes the rent people can charge is far higher than the cost to maintain property. But that doesn’t mean the owner is selling or that the renter is in a position to buy.

One is not categorically better than the other in all situations.


Okay, sure, but I don't see the OP of this subthread saying, "Stay on the lookout for arbitrage opportunities!" I see them not understanding that just because you don't go to the tire shop personally doesn't mean that you don't pay for the tire.


That's true, but it's much easier to pay for the 20% of a car that you actually use when you're renting it as needed.

While it's less obvious with housing the same applies: People buy houses that are bigger than they need at any given moment so that they have the space they need to entertain guests, or house prospective (or past) children, etc. It's much cheaper for me to put my parents up in a hotel when they come to town, than to keep a guest room idle for the next 20 years of my mortgage.


The utilization argument about rental cars is valid when and if we get driverless cars. Until then, the amount that you pay the driver completely destroys that savings.

(And in fact you pay for more wear on tires, gas/electricity, and other per-mile costs with rideshare, because the car travels more on your behalf than would a car you own.)

How much house you want/need is a valid concern, but not one that really cuts towards the question of renting or owning your primary residence. You can buy a house without a guest room. I did!


Yes and no.

Yes: rented stuff is generally more expensive in expectation - you're paying for LandLord2.0's marketing department.

No: you own a home and the roof leaks - good luck getting the insurance to see to it promptly, even after half a dozen phone calls.

If you are truly time poor and cash rich I suppose it could make sense to rent most things.


Lots of people also have difficulty getting their landlord to fix maintenance problems promptly. I think this is an orthogonal issue.

There's definitely a case for "paying money to make other people handle shit instead of you." There are lots and lots and lots and lots of opportunities to do this. You can go to a restaurant instead of cooking. You can have food delivered instead of going to a restaurant! You can hire a driver, whether it's through an Uber or through paying the salary of a personal chauffeur. You can hire maids, whether directly or by staying at a hotel. But, again, I don't think this really is that closely related to renting versus buying.


It also compounds your risk - if you only own two days of clothing as opposed to ten days of clothing, you have much less margin in doing laundry before you start to smell. If you rely on ridesharing you are dependent on having a cellphone, an internet connection etc. Owning things hedges your risk / increases your runway (in terms of time) before things are catastrophically bad. Bad things often compound. Outsourcing all of the risk seems like a bad idea to me.


> When the street I live in gets to dirty, why not simply move away?

This is what's toxic, the idea that people who don't have the capital to buy an enormous asset must not care about where they live.


Every other interaction with one of my apartment’s neighbors (I rent, he’s an owner) involves him telling me “I know that you guys are only renters and don’t care that much about the state of our building, but here’s what’s wrong with it [and then proceeds to list the stuff our building needs improving]”. It’s mildly infuriating, it’s not like I don’t care about the state the building is in, why wouldn’t I? I live in it!


But thats the crux. As an owner, you might be empiwered to directly address your buildings issues. As a tennant, both you, and even your neighbors seem somewhat helpless when the property becomes run down, excwpt to leave. That becomes a net negative to the community at large. 'Rent-seeking' is disparaged for a reason, when re-investment for the benefit of the renter, rentee, and community falter and fail.


There’s a common “building repairs” fund which gets replinished monthly by both owners and renters, so I certainly do financially invest in the building’s maintenance. And not directly mentioned but that’s also this idea that renters tend to suddenly urinate in the elevator or do similar stuff only because they do not own the place. I find that’s a crazy idea to have, like I said, we also live in the same place as the owners and “packing your stuff and move” it’s not a thing that we do lighthly, on a hunch, at least not after a certain age (I’m approaching 40, for example).


If you do not own what you use, you don't control it

And you don’t have to fix it or maintain it.

But how about it enables you to travel whereever you want whenever you want?

And you’re spending money on car notes, car insurance, and in major cities, parking, not to mention maintenance and repairs.

Owning a house or an apartment might seem unnecessary in our modern society, until the next rent increase or some disturbance in your financial situation

Most people have a mortgage who do have house. But if you have a financial situation, it’s much easier to relocate to find another job when you rent than when you own.

While I love to be able to rent things that I cannot or don't want to own, I have the impression that this "share everything" paradigm is actually just a toxic mixture of permanent monetarization and centralised control.

And owning everything is more to stuff to maintain and makes it harder to downsize when needed.


This is a big concern of mine with driverless cars. Cars have been a means of freedom. I feel this had been eroded to some extent, but I can still take my car and drive it anywhere, free from government intervention, and tracking my whereabouts. In the near future, they'll just be able to pull up your ride share account.


I agree with your sentiment but I have doubts about your actual analysis:

>Owning a house or an apartment might seem unnecessary in our modern society, until the next rent increase or some disturbance in your financial situation (assuming you're not sitting on a huge mortgage).

There's a large number of people (myself included) who are affluent but not affluent enough to own property without sacrificing standard of living. In a "steady state", you would expect the cost of renting and owning to be comparable, but in a bubble context owning is incredibly more expensive for the same unit because future rent increases are already priced in to the asset. That is the case for all of the top cities in the country.

Indeed, from my understanding many young people want to own property but have doubts they will ever be able to

> And why does nobody talk about how we have to pay every fucking minute, regardless what we do, in the share economy?

This is just an economic fact of life for everybody under capitalism, no matter how you slice it. If you invest capital to own something instead of renting it, you're constantly paying on the opportunity costs of another investments' dividends. This is in addition to the cost of maintenance and real estate taxes (for property), or the cost of maintenance, depreciation of asset, and cost of insurance (for cars), etc

> Who cares about the gearbox of a rented car? Just have a look at the interior of your average subway train. When the street I live in gets to dirty, why not simply move away?

I agree but these are collective costs, not individual costs (unlike the other points you made). Capitalism rarely factors in collective costs unless it gets to a certain breaking point for congress to act, like rivers catching on fire.

> While I love to be able to rent things that I cannot or don't want to own, I have the impression that this "share everything" paradigm is actually just a toxic mixture of permanent monetarization and centralised control.

"permanent monetarization" - that's just capitalism 101. Labor exists in a state of permanent monetarization because they don't have capital. If you have capital, see my above comment for evaluating whether you buy or rent+invest with said capital.

I don't agree with "centralised" - the long-term rental market is decentralized but should fall into the same bucket. There's no real reason you couldn't have a decentralized uber or airbnb, except that these services rely on technology for convenience, and there's all manner of problems with decentralized internet technology that makes it unlikely to succeed (I'd bet 10 bucks theres been an ICO for an uber-on-the-blockchain startup already).


> He rents a bed in a large room with other people who rent beds, for nights, weeks or months at a time, through a service called PodShare

Cynically, this sounds like we've found a way to reinvent the packed tenements of the industrial revolution


Why is that cynical/implying this is bad? IMO We need more tenements. Someone making 50k/year working in a central city should be able to chose if they want a bigger unit and a commute, or a bed to crash in and a walk to work. There is a huge and underserved demand for these by for example grad students, recent college graduates, consultants/long distance commuters (ex, live in Oregon fri - Sunday, fly to SF and work mon - thurs)


Speaking for myself here: I don't object to this as a possibility for people who want it--I object to the possibility of this becoming the norm. We're not there yet, of course, but problems creep in when people feel like they don't have a choice. It's also a problem when situations like this are seen as a reasonable tradeoff rather than a symptom of a larger problem about how society is organized in the first place.


Hell, I'd personally camp out in a storage unit if I could. All I want is a place to sleep and store a handful of things. Since zoning laws prevent that and because there are few affordable & legal options, I'm always forced to rent a larger amount of space than I need for thousands of dollars rather than hundreds. I'm not saying that I'd live so minimally forever, but as a single guy trying to save money, it'd be be a boon to my finances.

The reason I don't currently live at PodShare, like the subject in that article, is that I remembered seeing the monthly fee being well over $1000, at which point it makes no sense over simply renting a room in someone's house.


> Why is that cynical/implying this is bad?

Cynically in the context of the articles' semi-upbeat note about affluence, minimalism, and personal decision to own experiences rather than stuff.

I don't necessarily disagree that we need more tenements, except that I would have to carefully qualify what kind of tenements we're talking about. The industrial revolution held some horrifyingly poor standards of living that I wouldn't wish on my enemies.


Aside: I wonder if the rise of the so-called 'incels' sub-culture is more tightly linked to income or to housing. It may be worth while to investigate the self-professed 'incels' and their housing habits. If you are in one of these tenement style group bunks, I imagine that you'd have a much harder time meeting and 'interacting' with your preferred partners-to-be.


I think it's more people on the frindges, finally able to share ideas. I know plenty of people that live with parents or in squalid conditions and have no problems. Lots of these incels are socially challenged and / or on spectrum


Certainly not a problem in hostels


Hoovervilles for the sharing economy


I think a more accurate term for people who have a living arrangement that isn't within the confines of most people's idea of "home", but is a stable home to them nonetheless is "houseless".

Full-time RV'ers, for instance, would be houseless. A person who has given up their house or lease, and disposed of or stored their possessions to take a long-term trip (gap year, thru-hike, etc) would be houseless. Hashtag vanlifers? Houseless.

Similarly, I'd call somebody living the lifestyle presented in the article houseless, not homeless.


Jessica Bruder's Nomadland: Surviving America In The Twenty-First Century is a very good look into the RV'ers and their lives[0, 1]. Though at first, many people profess to love the freedom of the RV life, upon further inspection, most are very unhappy with it. Financial crises typically nucleate the move into the RV and that lifestyle. Per a recent NPR interview:

"And then maybe four days later, a week later, if I'm still hanging around as a reporter, that's when I hear about the foreclosure or the 401(k) that got wiped out, those other details. So people are eager to tell you that they chose this, but their options have narrowed quite a bit in recent years. So, you know, on the one hand, there is the I'm out there and I'm having an adventure. And on the other hand, this is sometimes the result of few options."

In the end, people are involved in complicated choices in their complicated lives. Still, it seems that most people would rather not be RV-ing their way through life, but make the best of it and put on a smile despite their situations.

A similar effect may be occurring with the OP.

[0] https://www.npr.org/2017/09/25/553532591/nomadland-tracks-ri...

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Nomadland-Surviving-America-Twenty-Fi...


Full timers range from being forced to live in a broken down car to having a successful exit and buying a million dollar class A. It depends on who you talk to. Some people choose it, some don't. Many who don't are making the best of their situation so they're trying to be positive about it.

I live in a bus. I choose this life. I know many others who also made this choice. I could afford a decent mortgage if I wanted to. Instead I'm exploring the country while I put that money towards paying off other debt and into savings. At some point I'll buy real estate but not today.


Thank you very much for the additional viewpoint! Is there a good resource available for others to see this flip-side better? Do you have a blog or other book that you could recommend? Again, thanks!


There are many depending on which segment you want to look at. Most RV clubs (eg Escapees[1]) cater to retired people who have sold their houses to travel in RVs. Vanlife / vandweller[2] type sites mostly cater to 20-40 somethings choosing the lifestyle. Some, like Cheap RV Living[3], cater to a wide range including those forced into it.

There are also forums dedicated to people building their own vehicles. Cheap RV Living has one. Skoolie.net[4] focuses on buses. Then there's a whole segment of adventure / overlanding vehicles such as Expedition Portal[5].

1: https://www.escapees.com/

2: http://reddit.com/r/vandwellers/

3: https://www.cheaprvliving.com/

4: http://www.skoolie.net/forums/

5: https://www.expeditionportal.com/


That's an important distinction to make. "Homeless" carries a large negative connotation and lumping in relatively affluent people like this dilutes the large issue of homelessness [not by choice] faced by so many


It's surprising to me that we aren't heavily subsidizing the development of high density apartments. Developers are building luxury housing because low and middle income is not economically viable -- the cost of building materials and labor is rising, so why not use tax breaks and permit deregulation to spur more growth?

I was surprised that the 2017 tax cut didn't seem to have any mechanisms to address the lack of middle class housing. I'm not sure if "opportunity zones" is sufficient.


Developers build luxury units not because constructing middle income housing not “economically viable” but rather because constructing middle income housing has essentially been banned in most cities by modern zoning codes and building regulations. Most cities either allow new housing as a single family home or as part of a 25+ unit building with minimum space requirements and 2 parking spots/unit. These regulations (parking, unit size minimums, the nature of constructing a 25 unit building, scarcity etc) make the housing more expensive. Minneapolis has recently changed their city wide zoning laws to allow for 4 unit building city wide, which will allow for cheaper “missing middle” type housing (2 - 6 unit building w no parking) that used to be constructed across urban neighborhoods in the US. There are new 2br units in 6plexes in Portland selling for ~350k. It’s possible to create new housing for the middle class, we just need to allow it.


Agreed, I live in downtown Portland and 3-5 luxury apartments have been built or are nearing completion within a 10 minute walk of my apartment. These all look like they can hold 100+ apartments, but are marketed towards yuppies and retirees.

I grew up in a privately owned middle density (around 100 apartments) building, no parking but close to public transit and affordable for a wide range of income, it's baffling that more of these don't exist.


Basically any new housing in a place with a housing crisis is "luxury housing".

Definitely worth supporting legislation like HB 2001 in Oregon that makes it possible to build slightly less expensive housing in broader areas.


It’s ironic because in SF, the majority of new units constructed are in the bottom 35% cost for their neighborhood


Completely agree!

One caveat though - living in big coastal cities we get decensitized to costs. 350k for a 2br isn’t really affordable. Using the rule of thumb from 60s - if median income is ~60k, the affordable home should not be more than 3x that, which is $180k.


> It's surprising to me that we aren't heavily subsidizing the development of high density apartments

Maybe a first step is to legalize higher density constructions in general - allow using a larger percentage of the same lot, subdivided into more units, all by right without the need to obtain exceptions from your local zoning board and without the chance for your neighbors to veto the development.

If it were dirt simple to replace a single family home on a large lot with multiple homes on subdivisions of the lot, by right, for literally every single neighborhood in the state, we would avoid this cat and mouse game where everyone wants higher density until it comes to their neighborhood, because in their neighborhood the {traffic, schools, transit, lack of transit, sewer infrastructure, environmental concern, blocking sunlight, blocking view, etc} situation is too precarious to take the risk, so we need everyone to move somewhere else

Even if we want the government to take heavy action to spur more construction, part of the reason every developer builds luxury housing is because it's so damn expensive and risky just to get through the stuff that comes before construction even begins (and consequently, lots sit idle for years at a time going through approval). That idle capital needs a return, so the only viable construction is luxury. We can address this issue now, and so if we inject taxpayer dollars to address housing later they will be more efficiently used anyways


Subsidizing? They are forbidden, period. My city is a Bay Area suburb and the last apartment building of any kind was built in 1978. Even if you could get zoning permission, the fee per housing unit is about $100K. This is supposed to cover the "impacts" on traffic, sewer, and, hilariously, affordable housing. A developer would have to be insane to build apartments for $200K when the city is getting $100K, when they can build a 2000 sq. ft. condo or zero-lot-line home instead.


https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2017/12/11/immutable-law... See rule 5. Developers always build luxury hosing, some years latter it is affordable as the rich move on.


I also found this surprising, until I realized that property taxes come from and city councils consist of the very people who like their neighbourhood and want it to stay exactly the way it is.


Luxury housing is middle income housing with a doorman and better countertops.

Luxury housing is built because it’s more profitable. But as new luxury is built, older luxury just becomes middle income.

Hell, in DC the luxury places are often smaller than older middle income apartments.

Also in some cities, middle income people cannot afford housing period.


high density apartments

Light sleeper here.

Apartments are a nonstarter for a lot of people, due to poor soundproofing.

Unless and until soundproofing gets better -- and I mean a LOT better -- apartments will never be practical for a nontrivial percentage of the population, as much as we might otherwise prefer them.


I don't get it. If my neighbours didn't renovate their apartments by drilling holes or hammering on the walls I wouldn't even know that other people besides me live in the same building. Sound proofing isn't going to stop walls from vibrating. Just suck it up. 2 days of noise a year isn't a nonstarter.


> Unless and until soundproofing gets better -- and I mean a LOT better -- apartments will never be practical for a nontrivial percentage of the population, as much as we might otherwise prefer them.

Most likely never going to happen, at least not in the US where apartment buildings are basically wooden matchboxes. I grew up in the well-known gray communist concrete blocks in Eastern Europe and I never heard my upstairs neighbors peeing until I moved to the USA.


Soundproofing doesn't need to get better. Buildings just need to be built with it. (Annoyingly, retrofitting internal dampening appears to be very difficult, which is a problem)


Then you're not in an urban area anyway, which is the place where high density apartments are needed.


I don't want to go too far down the path, but I don't think the motivations behind the 2017 US tax cut had anything to do with addressing middle class issues. The motivation wasn't about solutions as much as a sort of tax and government nihilism.


Private quarters with shared kitchen and bathroom? We used to call these "rooming houses." They've been around since the industrial revolution if not longer. Every time I see an article about the strange new living circumstances being chosen by Millenials, it ends up being an article that's actually about the 40-year aberration that was America between 1960 and 2000.

Edit: speling


My nephew is 22 lives in his van in SF. He makes plenty each month from his GI bill, and it's a really nice van. I would never call him homeless living in a van.. at this point he's made a lifestyle choice for a guy who prefers to be at the beach on the weekends.

I would say the same for the guy in this article. He's made a lifestyle choice.

True homelessness is not a lifestyle choice.


The question is, what is his alternatives? Living in SF making plenty each month doesn't mean he can afford to own something reasonable. Perhaps he would make a different choice if he had more opportunities.


It's amazing there is still such a stigma around people that choose an alternate lifestyle, or simply choose not to own a 4,000 sq. ft. McMansion that we stoop so low as to call them Homeless. The word has such dirty connotations.

I'm quite certain the author of this article would call me homeless. In fact I've been living in my vehicle for 3 years while driving around Africa, and I've never been happier in my life. Certainly night and day compared to when I was working a Desk as a Software Engineer, renting a nice place.

I have no interest in ever owning a home, and I'm sure I'll move between renting and living on the road as I see fit. That I should be labeled homeless for this is partially laughable, but also really disgusting. The drive to force people to consume is intense in the West.


> I'm quite certain the author of this article would call me homeless. In fact I've been living in my vehicle for 3 years while driving around Africa, and I've never been happier in my life. Certainly night and day compared to when I was working a Desk as a Software Engineer, renting a nice place.

There is a difference between you, who has taken a conscious decision _not to own_, and has the means to drive around Africa, and someone who has no choice but to do that in order to support a precarious existence as a social media content producer in Hollywood.


That social media producer in Hollywood chose that as well. He could move to a number of cities where the cost of living is lower. He could have gone to school and become a brain surgeon which would pay for a nice house even in Hollywood.


Different people are endowed with different natural abilities. It's not just a good school that stands between someone becoming a brain surgeon or not.

Likewise, the cost of living in Scranton, PA is proportionate to the opportunity for gainful employment there.


You're exaggerating to the point of parody.

It's totally valid to choose an alternate lifestyle, if that's what you want. It's great that there are more opportunities for people to do that, while retaining flexibility and access to different services.

But it's important to also be aware of the factors that might be forcing people into accepting alternate lifestyles when they don't want to. It's not about "choos[ing] not to own a 4,000 sq. ft. McMansion", but about being unable to own or even rent a modest living space, even if you'd rather not be sleeping in your vehicle or a "pod".

A movement towards corporate rentiership is something that we should absolutely critically examine the wider effects of. There is a cost associated with renting of property or services – and that's fine, if you're willing to pay the cost in exchange for increased flexibility. But it does seem like there's an issue where things like property ownership end up completely out of reach of otherwise affluent people, because capital is so concentrated in the hands of a rentier class.

Maybe you don't like the word "homeless", but I can't help but feel you're creating the stigma for yourself.


I agree this is a terrible mindset, but I'm not sure that's the dynamic here. The article talks about low income, indebted young people, which is very different from your situation which is entirely voluntary--it's not simply the most economically efficient choice to achieve some other goal, it's the end in itself, right?


The phrasing was “in a way, homeless” - the author was clearly trying to use only part of the meaning. The idea of being without a home - I’ve described myself as homeless, in a way, when describing moving away from where I grew up to a place where I have few roots - is important, whatever home means contextually.

I actually think what the author is doing is important. It is about reframing homelessness as something not for just destitute or lost people, but a way of life that can result in happiness. I think you are homeless as well, and I’m glad you are. What word would we use instead to describe someone without a home?

I do suppose at the end of the day you probably feel similarly to me, that a home is more than a McMansion or an apartment - maybe wherever you happen to be in Africa is your home? I’m not sure how to rectify the idea of a physical home with the abstract idea of home, definitely worth reflecting on.


Funny enough: (mostly conservative-leaning, old) people complain that the young generation has less kids, has girst time sex much later in life etc., but they seem to ignore the cause: stuff like this. How can one have a relationship without having a space to live said relationship in?

Call me a pessimist but this is going to hit societies hard in the next decades. When there are not enough young people to sustain pension systems, and the people in their 30s or 40s don't have a house, savings or any other asset to make up for not having a decent pension system...


Really playing fast and loose with the word "homeless" here...


Is this just the modern version of a flop house ?


Of course not! Its a 'Pod' .. Thats why its much more expensive than a flophouse.


> Steven T. Johnson, 27, works in social media advertising

What does that mean exactly, in his case? Is he an "influencer" like TheYachtGuy (https://melmagazine.com/en-us/story/the-lonely-life-of-a-yac...)?


I wonder if Podshare is one of his clients.


The short-term inconvenience pays off in terms of saving money to buy a home and invest rather than pissing away the money on rent and other recurring expenses. Rent is a major rain on savings, especially in high cost of living areas.


Is this guy living inexpensively? He takes ride-share, which is much more expensive than owning a cheap car. Owning two pairs of clothes doesn't really lower your clothing costs, and my guess is that he doesn't cook much for himself, which is another good way to drive up your cost of living.

Podshare lists rates of $1,000/month in LA (not SF). I don't know what local rents are there, but my guess is that Podshare is below the rates of studio apartments, but at or around the rates of renting one bedroom in a house.


House sharing: It's like podsharing but you get an entire room with a door that closes.


hmm..but The cost off the car does not include insurance, gas, insurance. A cheap old car will probably need a lot of repairs.


You pay for insurance and gas (and repairs) on an Uber, too. If your utilization of the car is low, you can get per-mile car insurance and pay a low cost for it.

You can get a cheap new car for a lot lower TCO than traveling an equivalent number of miles with Uber. Like, a lot lower, unless your utilization is crazy low. If you travel under 2,000 miles per year or so, Uber might be the best option for you.


If I had "pissed away rent money" before 2008 it would have saved me tens of thousands of dollars. Timing and luck is important.


Location is also important. Some places did much in the 2008 crash than others.


I bought a home in a very desirable location, assuming (like a dummy) that like the previous 30+ years the value would continue to rise. This desirable location meant I paid 25-30% more than a home about an hour away. My wife and I scrapped and saved for years to afford the down payment and then "poof" the value of that home dropped by 50%. The most important takeway/quote from that whole ordeal was "Markets can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent"


I think it's still good advice to never buy a house on terms you can't afford for the duration of the loan. Even if you plan not to be there 30 years. I watched the value of my home tank, then recover over the space of a few years, and it made exactly zero difference to me aside from delaying my next move. By the time I did move in 2012 I was way back into positive equity (and by coincidence it seems that I moved up to a newer, larger house right at the local minimum; accidental good timing).


> delaying my next move

We could absolutely afford the mortgage, even if we both lost our jobs and had to find lower pay replacements. We were conservative in every calculation. We put 20% down etc.

Buying a new home is where we tripped up. Right when the economy was starting to crash we bought another house (wife was pregnant) and put our first home up for sale. At the time of course, no one new what was ahead of us "recession" wise.

Obviously in hindsight it was a mistake, but at the time homes were selling like hotcakes and we didn't worry. Prices were also still climbing quickly and we worried that in a few years we'd be priced out of the market.

However, it's worth noting that our first home's value has still not reached it's peak (what we paid) so if we stayed there, we'd still have negative equity. Luck, timing etc. etc.


Yeah some places have really struggled to come back, I get that, and timing does make a huge difference. A friend of mine bought his house in 2006. There were some other factors as well, but that timing was definitely a factor in it taking nearly 10 years for him to get positive again so he could sell it.


Thanks for the chat. The region in question isn't struggling, it's just that the values were so inflated pre 2008 that "coming back to earth" has taken a long time.

The takeaway for my wife and I was that it's better to be fiscally conservative, or enormously fiscally aggressive but nothing in between. We crossed that line every so slightly and paid a huge price.


That's great if you don't have any responsibility but yourself.

For some people, being homeless isn't a real option.


I had the same reaction, that this lifestyle is pretty common for young, single professionals living in the city. 25+ years ago my sister lived in the city and also didn't own a car, washing machine, house or... because of her tiny apt lots of "things". This is another trash (IMHO) article, seeking to depict "millennials" as some sort of new breed of human more willing to share when in act their just young and unattached.


If you can't afford to buy a house, then by definition you're not "affluent." Many of the type of people profiled in this article can't afford to buy a house in their locales, and thus should not be labelled "affluent."

The article should be called something like, "The Non-Indigent Homeless."

Words matter.




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