A photo collage of an empty bedroom, a portrait of Starcity CEO Jon Dishotsky, and a refrigerator with a welcome card.
From top left (clockwise): An empty bedroom from a Starcity residence in San Francisco, CA; Starcity co-founder and CEO Jon Dishotsky; a welcome card for new residents at Starcity is shown on the communal refrigerator. Photography: Jason Henry

Yes, Adults Are Still Renting $2,000 Co-Living Dorm Rooms During the Pandemic

Nonresidents must wear masks, and some residents are staying in their rooms

Andrew Zaleski
Published in
7 min readJul 6, 2020

On the first day of October 2019, Julia O. Test moved into a Starcity co-living house in Los Angeles. Soon, the 34-year-old photographer was joined by more housemates, about a dozen people in all from their twenties through their forties.

In Starcity housing, everyone has their own bedroom — and in Test’s case, her bedroom suite came with a private bathroom. Otherwise, the housemates share cookware, kitchen utensils, and regular household supplies. They hang out in shared living rooms. They eat meals together in designer kitchens. Many use the same bathrooms.

“For me, it’s the right way to live: You have a built-in community, and I think a lot of people would benefit from that,” she says. “Prior to that, I was in a studio high-rise in Hollywood, and it was really isolating.”

Critics of co-living arrangements like Starcity say that they are overpriced, exclusionary, and ineffective solutions to the problem of affordable housing — adult dorms for the millennial set. Now, six months into a coronavirus pandemic and a nationwide surge in cases, companies like Starcity are forced to address another uncomfortable truth: Residents of these housing developments are now living in, and sometimes being confined to, cramped quarters with total strangers.

Navigating the boundaries of shared living during a viral pandemic has been tricky at times for Test and her housemates. In all of the Starcity properties, the rules around socializing with people from outside the house are uniform and strict. If nonresidents come to visit, they must wear masks. For those living in the buildings, the general rule is that residents set their own safety rules: whatever makes them feel at ease. Some residents won’t associate too much with other residents outside of using the shared kitchens and bathrooms.