Adult dorms in Silicon Valley? Maybe the millennials were right

Commentary: Why are hard-working adults in San Francisco living in dorm rooms? This "lazy millennial" has a theory.

Daniel Van Boom Senior Writer
Daniel Van Boom is an award-winning Senior Writer based in Sydney, Australia. Daniel Van Boom covers cryptocurrency, NFTs, culture and global issues. When not writing, Daniel Van Boom practices Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, reads as much as he can, and speaks about himself in the third person.
Expertise Cryptocurrency, Culture, International News
Daniel Van Boom
3 min read
Edmond Tran/CBS Interactive

Brunch. Instagram. Renting. If we millennials were a band, those would be our greatest hits. But the inability to buy a home is a familiar tune for older Gen Xers too.

Starcity, a company buying huge properties in San Francisco, is turning big ol' buildings into adult dormitories, according to a New York Times story this week. The dorms target non-techies, who can't afford property thanks to the jerks of Silicon Valley and are willing to share common areas with strangers.

The idea's a hit, with three buildings sold out and over 8,000 on the waiting list, according to the Times. Its residents earn $40,000 to $90,000 a year (£29,000 to £65,000 or AU$51,000 to AU$115,000), while the average home costs $1.5 million (£1.1 million, AU$1.9 million ) in San Francisco. It's little wonder that Starcity's enterprise is a success.


A home of my own: So close. So far. 

Edmond Tran/CBS Interactive

It's quite delicious really.   

Not the part about hard-working folks in San Francisco having to live in dorm rooms. Many of the Starcity inhabitants interviewed by the Times seem to like the real-estate adventure, but it's still a disaster if the most feasible living arrangement for people with decent salaries is a dorm.

But it is vindicating for me, and it may be for you too if you're under 37 -- the age Pew Research Center declared as the upper limit for the millennial generation.

For years, millennials (a term I dislike and reluctantly use to define myself) have gotten the finger-shaking "if you just pulled up your socks, you too could own a home" routine. But housing in many parts of the world is simply unaffordable. Starcity's success shows us all that reality. It's come down to dorm life in San Francisco. Cities like New York, Sydney and London surely can't be far behind.

Young folks and their lack of real estate was a hot topic in Australia last year. An Australian property developer, Tim Gurner, made an infamous comment about us damn youths: If we'd just spend less money on avocado toast, he said, we'd be able to afford a home. He was roundly mocked, and his argument swiftly meme-ified and disregarded.

Except, as is often the case with people eviscerated in condescending columns like this one, there's more to what he said. Gurner was himself 34 and mentioned he bought his first home by working from 6 in the morning to 10 at night, seven days a week.

Enlarge Image

Click for more Boom With a View.

So yes. The argument he was trying to make is that kids today are unwilling to sacrifice to buy our own homes. And that's true -- as long as everyone accepts that "sacrifice" equals working 100-hour weeks without a pot of avocado at the end of the rainbow. 

I, for one, will readily admit to being too lazy to work 100 hours a week. I don't think there's anything I want or care about that much. Must be a millennial thing. Except Silicon Valley is showing that it's not a millennial thing. It's an everybody thing. Thousands of reasonable, dutiful people, untainted by the millennial tag, are saying goodbye to the hope of owning real estate. 

Silicon Valley is the future, but not just tech-wise. Insane house prices are becoming a feature (not a bug) of many cities around the world. The average Sydney home costs AU$1.1 million, while London house prices are 14.5 times the average income.

It seems likely to me, a 25-year-old who has completely abandoned the idea of owning my own place, that this dorm arrangement won't be just for San Francisco. I know a few people here in Sydney who are willing to save money for a million years so they can afford to buy a place three hours outside the city, but affordable renting, dorm living or not, is a more likely path for me.

So I'd like to thank Silicon Valley for providing this example and for showing once again that it's not just us millennials. Real estate is even worse than the new Snapchat

It's Complicated: This is dating in the age of apps. Having fun yet?

Batteries Not Included: The CNET team reminds us why tech is cool.