Fresh off a $50 million funding round, co-living startup Common has named former New York City housing czar Alicia Glen to its board of directors.
The move comes as the company, an early evangelist of shared housing for millennials, looks to increase its footprint in affordable and workforce housing.
“It’s probably the fastest-growing segment of Common today,” said CEO Brad Hargreaves. Given the frequency of Common’s work with local governments, he said the company was looking to bring on someone with deep public policy experience.
An alumna of Goldman Sachs, Glen was deputy mayor for housing and economic development for five years. During her tenure, the de Blasio administration financed the creation and preservation of a record number of affordable units.
Glen left the post in early 2019, and in June of this year she launched her own development firm, MSquared, to build middle-income housing in smaller U.S. cities. Glen said her work at MSquared would not overlap with her board duties.
“We have a massive housing crisis in the U.S.,” said Glen, describing a dearth of housing at every income level. When you peel back the onion, she said, the population with the fewest options are essential workers, such as teachers, nurses and police officers, who don’t qualify for affordable housing but are often priced out of market-rate homes.
“These are the workers that make our economic engines run, and they’re the most rent-burdened,” she said, adding that if companies like Common can use technology to “turn this thing upside down and inside out,” it’s an important piece of the solution.
Founded in 2015, Common has 17,500 units under development in 26 cities. Its foray into affordable and workforce housing is relatively nascent; last fall, Common was selected by the de Blasio administration to develop an affordable co-living project in East Harlem. In May, Common launched Noah, a property management division focused on workforce housing.
Using technology to ensure buildings run smoothly, Common has also rolled out housing for families and is looking to develop housing for remote workers.
Common currently manages about 1,000 affordable and workforce units, representing 20 percent of its business. But Hargreaves said the latter could represent the majority of its business within three years.
“Workforce housing is 60 percent of all apartment units in the U.S., and 60 percent that’s generally not getting a lot of attention from managers and tech companies,” he said. “It’s kind of a white space from an innovation standpoint.”
With Glen, Common has eight directors, including Scott Miller, former CEO of Hyatt Hotels Corp.
Last week, Common announced a $50 million Series D led by Kinnevik and has raised $110 million to date. Hargreaves said the company will use the new funds to fuel its evolution into new verticals and invest in technology.
“We’re building an operating platform,” Hargreaves said. “Not just co-living, but co-living as an example of what the platform can do.”