Tech A startup is turning old hotels into dorm-like housing for San Francisco's forgotten middle class — here's what it's like inside

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San Francisco is in the middle of a housing crisis. One startup found the answer in affordable communal housing — see what it's like inside.

A community dinner at Starcity's Mission location. play

A community dinner at Starcity's Mission location.

(Starcity)

The booming tech industry has caused an ongoing housing crisis in San Francisco, and longtime middle-income residents have been forced out by sky-high housing costs.

A startup called Starcity is on a mission to alleviate the situation. Founded in 2016, the 18-person team is creating communal housing for middle-income people who don't qualify for government subsidies but still can't afford San Francisco's sky-high prices.

Starcity buys up defunct hotels, retail buildings, and parking garages and turns them into dorm-like living spaces for the city's restaurant workers, teachers, and artists. According to the founder Jon Dishotsky, fewer then 20% of residents work in tech.

Right now, Starcity runs two San Francisco locations — one in the Mission district and one in Soma. There's an 1,800-person waiting list for the two open locations, with nine more locations in the works. We visited the Mission location to see what it's like.

The Mission Starcity was previously a residence hotel called the Yug, and other than a new paint job the outside has remained the same. "We're not dropping a glass box in the community and walking away," Dishotsky said.

The Mission Starcity was previously a residence hotel called the Yug, and other than a new paint job the outside has remained the same. "We're not dropping a glass box in the community and walking away," Dishotsky said. play

The Mission Starcity was previously a residence hotel called the Yug, and other than a new paint job the outside has remained the same. "We're not dropping a glass box in the community and walking away," Dishotsky said.

(Caroline Cakebread/Business Insider)


The building's front room is reserved for the surrounding community. When the space first opened in May, it served as an art gallery for Mission-based artists.

The building's front room is reserved for the surrounding community. When the space first opened in May, it served as an art gallery for Mission-based artists. play

The building's front room is reserved for the surrounding community. When the space first opened in May, it served as an art gallery for Mission-based artists.

(Caroline Cakebread/Business Insider)


The surrounding neighborhood is characteristic of the Mission before the tech boom and is filled with street vendors and mom-and-pop shops.

The surrounding neighborhood is characteristic of the Mission before the tech boom and is filled with street vendors and mom-and-pop shops. play

The surrounding neighborhood is characteristic of the Mission before the tech boom and is filled with street vendors and mom-and-pop shops.

(Caroline Cakebread/Business Insider)

Before opening a new building, Starcity gets in touch with neighborhood groups to see who in the community is in need of housing. The goal is to build a bridge between the older generations in the city and the new ones — not divide them over $4 lattes.



The building has 20 residents, including three who resided in the former Yug hotel.

The building has 20 residents, including three who resided in the former Yug hotel. play

The building has 20 residents, including three who resided in the former Yug hotel.

(Caroline Cakebread/Business Insider)

Their rooms were renovated, but the three remaining residents of the Yug pay the same rent they always have. Starcity prices their spaces at 30% of the average middle income. At the Mission location, residents get a private bedroom and access to a communal kitchen and living room for $2,000 including utilities. This may seem high, but the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the Mission is $3,200.



The kitchen is communal. One side is for more serious cooking, and the other is for putting together a simple meal or reheating leftovers.

The kitchen is communal. One side is for more serious cooking, and the other is for putting together a simple meal or reheating leftovers. play

The kitchen is communal. One side is for more serious cooking, and the other is for putting together a simple meal or reheating leftovers.

(Caroline Cakebread/Business Insider)

Everyone gets a labeled shelf in the pantry and in one of the two fridges for personal food.



The communal living room is spacious and big enough for weekly potluck dinners and Wine Wednesdays. All costs of the Starcity-organized events are included in rent.

The communal living room is spacious and big enough for weekly potluck dinners and Wine Wednesdays. All costs of the Starcity-organized events are included in rent. play

The communal living room is spacious and big enough for weekly potluck dinners and Wine Wednesdays. All costs of the Starcity-organized events are included in rent.

(Starcity)


Residents are allowed to add their personal belongings to communal spaces. The blow-up sharks on the lower shelf are leftover from a community-initiated "Shark Week."

Residents are allowed to add their personal belongings to communal spaces. The blow-up sharks on the lower shelf are leftover from a community-initiated "Shark Week." play

Residents are allowed to add their personal belongings to communal spaces. The blow-up sharks on the lower shelf are leftover from a community-initiated "Shark Week."

(Caroline Cakebread/Business Insider)


Residents of the Mission community also maintain a communal bar cart.

Residents of the Mission community also maintain a communal bar cart. play

Residents of the Mission community also maintain a communal bar cart.

(Caroline Cakebread/Business Insider)


A rarity in any city, the building has a small outdoor area.

A rarity in any city, the building has a small outdoor area. play

A rarity in any city, the building has a small outdoor area.

(Caroline Cakebread/Business Insider)


In-unit washer and dryers are included in rent and available to all.

In-unit washer and dryers are included in rent and available to all. play

In-unit washer and dryers are included in rent and available to all.

(Caroline Cakebread/Business Insider)


At every location, Starcity partners with a local organization and sets up donation boxes and volunteer events for residents.

At every location, Starcity partners with a local organization and sets up donation boxes and volunteer events for residents. play

At every location, Starcity partners with a local organization and sets up donation boxes and volunteer events for residents.

(Caroline Cakebread/Business Insider)


Everyone has a private room, and bathrooms on each floor are typically shared by two people.

Everyone has a private room, and bathrooms on each floor are typically shared by two people. play

Everyone has a private room, and bathrooms on each floor are typically shared by two people.

(Caroline Cakebread/Business Insider)


All rooms come fully furnished, the cost of which is included in rent. The rooms are all about 220 square feet, and between the bed and nightstand, space is tight.

All rooms come fully furnished, the cost of which is included in rent. The rooms are all about 220 square feet, and between the bed and nightstand, space is tight. play

All rooms come fully furnished, the cost of which is included in rent. The rooms are all about 220 square feet, and between the bed and nightstand, space is tight.

(Caroline Cakebread/Business Insider)


Items from local businesses are incorporated throughout the building and add some of the character typical high-rises lack. This pillow for example, came from a vendor at a Mission street fair.

Items from local businesses are incorporated throughout the building and add some of the character typical high-rises lack. This pillow for example, came from a vendor at a Mission street fair. play

Items from local businesses are incorporated throughout the building and add some of the character typical high-rises lack. This pillow for example, came from a vendor at a Mission street fair.

(Caroline Cakebread/Business Insider)


Each room comes fully equipped with a kitchenette for those who just want to grab a yogurt and go in the morning.

Each room comes fully equipped with a kitchenette for those who just want to grab a yogurt and go in the morning. play

Each room comes fully equipped with a kitchenette for those who just want to grab a yogurt and go in the morning.

(Caroline Cakebread/Business Insider)


According to Dishotsky, 40% of applicants come via word of mouth.

Dishotsky. play

Dishotsky.

(Caroline Cakebread/Business Insider)

Growing up in communal housing, Dishotsky was introduced early on to the lively communities that are created when groups of people live together. He also became well aware of the problems that can arise — and tried to nip those problems in the bud at the Mission location. Hence the professional cleaning crew and in-unit laundry.

"There's no option in real estate that caters to the customer, and housing shouldn't be binary," he said.



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