Co-living pioneer Pure House gives up most NYC locations

Retreat highlights challenges facing the young industry

Pure House interiors (credit: Pure House via Facebook) and Ryan Fix
Pure House interiors (credit: Pure House via Facebook) and Ryan Fix

Pure House gave up nearly all of its New York City locations over the course of 2016, a reminder that numerous challenges still threaten the nascent co-living business model.

The company’s founder Ryan Fix told The Real Deal that it currently operates one co-living space out of Fix’s own apartment. At its height, the startup managed 25 spaces in four Williamsburg buildings, according to Fix. The New York Times, The Atlantic and other publications wrote about the company at length, depicting it as the vanguard of the global co-living trend (Fix uses the term “communal homes”).

Like fellow co-living operators WeWork and Common, Pure House rented residential units and then effectively sublet them to those willing to share a space. Its customers signed 30-day membership agreements for anywhere between $1,600 to $4,000. But Fix, who started Pure House in late 2012, told TRD that he didn’t manage to make a meaningful profit on his locations.

Pure House as an entity lives on, and Fix last month launched what he calls a “do-tank” based in Paris and focused on “crowdsourcing and prototyping solutions for co-living operators,” dubbed Pure House Lab. He also told TRD that he handed several spaces over to Pure House’s former members, and said he believes they still occupy them.

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“There’s a period of thrashing and instability and (figuring out) how to make the model work,” he said. “Even today co-working as a business still faces significant challenges.”

Last year, California-based co-living company Campus, unable to make money, shuttered.

Since then, New York-based Common has expanded aggressively with the help of $23.3 million in venture funding. On Monday it announced its fourth New York location, taking over the entire 69-unit rental building 595 Baltic Street in Boerum Hill.

Meanwhile, shared office company WeWork opened its first WeLive co-living space at Rudin Management’s 110 Wall Street earlier this year. It operates another location at Vornado Realty Trust’s Crystal City outside Washington, D.C. But in August, the Wall Street Journal reported that the company had all but halted the expansion of its co-living line in part because it had underestimated the cost of building out spaces.