Oh, how I remember my days in a college dorm.
The “Step Brothers”-style bunk beds… the tiny window permanently smudged and painted shut… the rug stained with who knows what… the influx of female hormones up and down nine stories of box-sized rooms…
By the time May swung around, I was ready to get outta there.
Would I go back? Reflexively, I’d say heck no. But if it meant only paying $1,100 a month in New York City rent?
Plus two free meals, cleaning services, included utilities and 24-hour security?
Yeah, I’d reconsider.
How Can I Find Affordable Rent in New York City?
Apparently, rent is affordable in the Big Apple — if you live in an adult, all-female dorm.
This week, the New York Times wrote about The Webster Apartments, marketed as “a benevolent institution whose mission is to provide safe, affordable, temporary residences for working women of modest means.”
The institution isn’t new. Doors opened for the first time in 1923, and the building’s Facebook page boasts nearly filled-to-capacity occupancy ever since.
Women still take advantage of this co-living space, forking out a mere (by NYC standards) $1,100-$1,800 a month for a private room in the 13-story building.
Compare that to $2,747 a month, the average one-bedroom apartment rental rate in New York City as of November 2016, according to Rent Jungle.
The Insane Perks of Living at The Webster Apartments in NYC
The Penny Hoarder photographer Samantha Dunscombe lived at the complex back in the ’90s when she was in her early 20s and spent a semester participating in a work-study program.
As a photographer (and a human who enjoys a breathtaking view), her fondest memory is the building’s rooftop.
“We used to spend a lot of time hanging out up there,” she says. “It was amazing because you could see the Empire State Building.”
The room was furnished with the essentials: a bed, desk, chair, dresser and bookshelf.
Dunscombe also remembers each room having a sink — a nice perk when you use a community bathroom.
She says the room was small, but she never spent much time there.
“You’re in New York; you’re not hardly in your room anyways,” she says.
I ask about the included two meals a day, utilities and cleaning service referenced by the New York Times.
Dunscombe doesn’t remember any of that, but she also doesn’t recall ever having to clean. “Well, I know I didn’t clean,” she says, laughing.
What Would You Give Up to Afford NYC Rent?
Just like living in an all-female dorm, there were — and still are — rules.
No boys — that’s the big rule.
Dunscombe describes it as “hardcore.”
“People were hawkish with that,” she says.
Instead, there are six “beau parlors” where women can receive gentlemen callers… or you can just opt to go to their place.
No similar restrictions are in place for female friends, platonic or otherwise.
The Webster Apartment’s site explains: “You may arrange to have a female friend stay overnight on a cot in your room for $50 per night (including breakfast.)”
There’s no curfew, but doors lock at midnight, and you might need to ring in if you need to get in after that.
The rules never bothered Dunscombe, though. The building was safe and free from bugs and rodents, and most importantly, affordable.
For her, that was enough.
Your Turn: Would you give up your romantic freedom for more affordable rent?
Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. After recently completing graduate school, she focuses on saving money — and surviving the move back in with her parents.