Putting Up Walls to Bring Down the Rent

  • July 18th 2012

by Shilpi Paul

Putting Up Walls to Bring Down the Rent: Figure 1
Temporary wall. Courtesy of Apartment Therapy.

Some luxury apartment buildings in DC, like Yale West, seem made for young people. Amenities that include lounges, party rooms, fitness and business centers make for a social atmosphere, and the dense population means there are plenty of people to hang out with.

However, the demographic that these buildings frequently attract — young grad students and those early in their careers — often don’t have the required funds to meet the steep rents. Despite this hurdle, UrbanTurf is hearing that many young people have found a way to live in these luxury buildings without going broke: just put up walls and transform a one-bedroom into a two or three-bedroom with a tiny living room, but manageable rent.

Ryan Andrews, Paul Halliday and a friend moved into a one-bedroom in Mass Court at 300 Massachusetts Avenue NW last month and did just that. The trio divided up the living room with a wall to create an additional bedroom; one sleeps there, another lives in the den and the lucky one gets the original bedroom. In a building where one-bedrooms rent for $2,500 a month, the configuration brings down the rent, but also the living space, the latter which Andrews does not mind.

“I much prefer this to a group house,” Andrews told UrbanTurf. “This place is by the Metro, brand new, and gorgeous. It was an easy call.”

Group houses in neighborhoods a little bit farther out from the city center have long been an affordable option for renters with limited funds, but an increasing number of young adults are choosing the amenities that luxury buildings have to the large kitchen and living room that group houses offer.

“It is not so important to have a large space to entertain inside the apartment when there is a roof deck, a pool, a party room, and a large lounge,” said Blake Smith, who is considering splitting a small space with a roommate at WestEnd25 on 25th Street.

Putting Up Walls to Bring Down the Rent: Figure 2
Pool at WestEnd25.

Apparently, management in many buildings not only tolerate the dividing trend, but sometimes plant the idea. Steven Reichel, a law school student at Georgetown who wanted to be within walking distance of campus, said the leasing agent at Mass Court was the one to suggest putting up a wall to accommodate more roommates and bring down costs. Others, like Halliday, heard about the trend from friends who had already done it. Initially a bit skeptical of the idea, he checked out a divided apartment and was convinced.

Reichel hired a contractor to put up a wall for about $900, taking care to design one that will leave no permanent mark on the unit. Policies vary building to building; some, like WestEnd25, do not allow temporary walls, so roommates fashion private spaces using free-standing walls or heavy drapes.

For Blake Smith, this constraint highlights what might be the biggest downside to the arrangement: a lack of personal space. Drapes, no matter how heavy, do not offer a lot of privacy. While business centers may offer a quiet place to study and lounges a place to escape your roommate, a life in an apartment with no doors and few walls could get tiring. Smith and his roommate are still looking at other options before they commit to a year without a real wall.

As UrbanTurf has written about previously, a slew of new apartment projects are coming online in the next couple of years. It’ll be interesting to see how these luxury buildings accommodate perhaps a few more residents than they were bargaining for.

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/putting_up_walls_to_bring_down_the_rent/5728.

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