‘PadSplit’: A New Day for an Old Idea

An interesting concept that currently is aiding low-income and working class people in 18 states across the country may hold a key to housing older adults on fixed incomes, and it’s based on a housing arrangement that used to be commonplace: the rooming house.

Rooming House Nostalgia

For hundreds of years, rooming houses — or boarding houses or single room occupancy hotels (SROs) — were a fixture in U.S. cities and towns. It was commonplace to book a room in one if you were traveling, or if your income prevented you from owning a home. Many movies were made featuring such houses, including the 1937 Turner Movie classic Stage Door, in which aspiring actresses lived in a boarding house while waiting for their big break on Broadway.

Since the early 1970s — partly because of zoning laws and economic development projects — most boarding houses have disappeared.  I have lots of painful experience on this front, but I’ll save telling for another time. But a company founded in 2017, PadSplit, may be changing that.

The Boarding House Reimagined

PadSplit is the brainchild of Atlanta real estate developer Atticus Leblanc. It offers furnished bedrooms at weekly rates that include utilities. According to a recent story in the New York Times, PadSplit already has housed 22,000 people and is expanding.

The PadSplit model is to turn a house near public transportation into a 21st-century boarding house. PadSplit converts a house’s living into a bedroom and puts lock on all the bedroom doors. Rooms are then rented out by the week. Most PadSplit houses have a shared bathroom and kitchen, and while not everyone’s ideal living situation, it is affordable.

The upside to PadSplit is that renters don’t need a minimum credit score, and PadSplit reports all on-time rent payments to the credit bureaus. Many PadSplit renters with low credit scores have actually improved their scores over time simply because of their record of on-time payments. All of the PadSplit homes are managed by the corporation, not by individual landlords.

The cost? Depending on the neighborhood, room rentals start anywhere from $100 to $145 per week. Location and housing size and amenities affect the rental rate. According to the New York Times article, most PadSplit renters are in their mid-thirties and have an annual income around $30,000.

This “old is new” idea of single room occupancies is one way we can start addressing the lack of housing stock for single people and couples. The absence of government administration gives one hope something can happen fairly quickly. The need is clear. For example, AARP reports that about 28 percent of U.S. households consist of a single person living alone, yet fewer of than 1 percent of housing units are studios. Imagine converting a large house into a rooming house. The resulting rental units would be a win-win for both tenants and the community, and help lessen the housing shortage.

Applying the PadSplit Model to Older Adult Right Sizing

Many people work in jobs that don’t pay enough to rent a large apartment or buy a home. Similarly, many Third Chapter folks wanting to thrive in this joyous time of life simply can’t afford many of the options currently available: even traditional shared housing or co-housing arrangements can prove too costly, and older adult or multigenerational newly-built communities are definitely out of the question. Adapting the PadSplit model to meet the needs of Baby Boomers on limited incomes may just be one more way we all can live our best Third Chapter Lives.

Third Chapter Living celebrates, challenges, informs and promotes conversations about housing issues affecting the Baby Boomer Generation. Check out our website to learn more about our work on aging-in-place options. The author, Reese Fayde, is a dedicated problem solver and skills development coach. She’s passionate about working with change-makers — individuals committed to transforming the status quo, whether it’s in their industry, community, or organization.

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