Andrei Atanasovski said PodShare is the only housing he can afford within walking distance from campus.
“I’m pretty sure without this as a solution I wouldn’t have been able to make it through my program,” Atanasovski said.
The Westwood PodShare, a housing community on Hilgard Avenue, offers hostel-style living for its residents, said Elvina Beck, PodShare founder and CEO. PodShare offers 200 beds across its five locations in Los Angeles, and residents can stay as long as they like at any of the locations.
PodShare could be replaced by a new housing development, which might cause Atanasovski to have to live further away or stop attending UCLA. Atanasovski is completing a professional program in film production at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.
Two physicians filed a plan with the City of Los Angeles in November to build The Agora, a 16-story housing development, at the same location where PodShare is located. Several community organizations, including the Westwood Neighborhood Council and the Holmby Westwood Property Owners Association, oppose the project because they think it will replace affordable housing and cause traffic congestion.
The proposed Agora project would have 462 beds priced at $1,000 to $1,200 a month per bed, said Ted Khalili, co-principal developer of The Agora. If The Agora’s application is approved by the city, PodShare’s lease would end prematurely to make room for the new high-rise building.
PodShare operates differently than a typical apartment complex, Beck said.
PodShare charges residents $40 for one night, $245 for one week and $840 for one month. These fees include housekeeping, water, toiletries and utilities, Beck said. There are no other fees or security deposits.
Ashley Miniard, manager at the Westwood PodShare, said their low prices are the focus of their business model.
“Our business model is based around affordable housing in unaffordable areas” Miniard said.
Beck added renting at PodShare is similar to a gym membership.
“You can work out at any 24 Hour Fitness if you have a membership – for us you can sleep at any PodShare,” Beck said.
Residents are allowed to choose their roommates for each room, with gender-segregated rooms as well as co-ed rooms available for non-binary or transgender residents. Rooms range from 200-300 square feet and accommodate on average three to four people per room.
Rooms are arranged with one bunk bed on either side as well as desk space, cabinet space and space for personal fridges. PodShare also has a communal kitchen with a large fridge for residents to store their personal food.
Miniard added that cooking together with other residents is part of the experience of living at PodShare.
“Most residents go out to eat for breakfast and lunch but dinner is a group activity,” Miniard said.
Other amenities include free towels, coin-operated laundry, daily housekeeping, Wi-Fi, furnishing, a library, 24-hour desk service, and a business center with an iMac and printer.
Beck said most PodShare residents stay two weeks to one month. Since the Westwood location rents primarily to students, most residents typically rent for the full month. About 16 to 20 people have stayed over four months at the Westwood PodShare, Beck said.
She added that on average, 60 to 70 percent of the 90 beds at the Westwood location are occupied.
Atanasovski said he thinks PodShare provides international students with accessible housing.
“It’s a great way for us who are part of UCLA programs but don’t have the right to access or claim student housing,” Atanasovski said .
Vince Augusto, a UCLA Extension student, said he decided to stay longer than intended because of PodShare’s convenience.
“It was supposed to be a short-term stay for me but it was just so good and the price is so good and close to campus so it’s perfect,” Augusto said.
However, Augusto added because many people live in Podshare, it is not as clean as he would like.
“It has its drawbacks, for example the hygiene,” Augusto said. “A lot of people live here so it’s not as neat as a hotel.”
He said he loves the sense of community the program brings.
“I like the fact that I have my own friends here and I get to share a room with them,” Augusto said.
Miniard added she thinks the sense of community helps residents from abroad ease into life in a new environment.
“You have a stranger aspect but you end up hanging out with them and have a bonding experience in a unique place,” Miniard said. “Family generally worry when you’re away, but when you make friends here it really puts them at ease.”