These $800 a Month Bay Area Pods Are Just Glorified ‘Coffin Homes’

This is not the answer to the housing crisis — at all

Matt Charnock
4 min readMay 11, 2022


Photo: Courtesy of Brownstone Shared Housing

Talk to anyone in the Bay Area for more than four minutes, and there’s an exceptional chance that the conversation will turn toward the state of housing in the area. During a fleeting moment amid the pandemic’s height from mid-2020 and early-2021, there was hope astronomical rent prices and home prices could go down. And stay down.

Alas, that was only an ephemeral longing — that’s all but evaporated into record-high inflation rates, the pop of “pandemic pricing,” and real estate climbing to new, out-of-reach altitudes. In fact: Home prices in the Bay Area have gone up, on average, 12% across the board since 2021. Santa Clara County has seen the steepest increases at 26%.

As for rent prices? Those, too, have gone up by two-digit percentage points; San Francisco rents are up at least 18% from this same time last year.

But if you can’t afford, say, $2,400-a-month rents — which would require around an $84,000 annual income to comfortably afford — then there are always more affordable, dystopian alternatives.

Like… for example: Renting out an $800 a month pod in Palo Alto.

The axiomatic idea behind the inception of Brownstone Shared Housing — an eight-month-old startup that bills itself as a “short-term solution for students or people working on temporary jobs” — is nothing novel or awe-inspiring. “Pod-living” and dormitory-style room rentals have grown into financial fodder across the Bay Area over the past decade.

In 2015, it wasn’t uncommon to see spaces that measured no bigger than a walk-in closet renting for over $1,100 a month on craigslist. Comparatively, this was also the time when cramped community living corridors (that read more like incarceration units than actual spaces to comfortably exist) began popping up across the Bay Area.



Matt Charnock

SF transplant, coffee shop frequent; tiny living enthusiast. iPhone hasn’t been off silent mode in nine or so years. Former EIC of The Bold Italic.