Author Topic: Frugal or folly? 130-sq-ft prison cell for rent in Seattle's university district  (Read 10434 times)

Grigory

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Just in case you don't know, Seattle's real estate market is insane. Ditto for the rentals. Here is an article about a new micro-apartment complex that just got built in the high-density, high-demand U-district.

The target audience is the university students, and the micro-apartments are essentially prison cells: the shower, sink and toilet are all inside the room, without any doors or separators. (Good luck bringing a date to your cell!) The kitchen is communal. The wi-fi and utilities seem to be included. For the time being, anyway.

While it is possible to find a room for rent for $750 in Seattle, it probably wouldn't be anywhere near campus. Renting even a tiny studio apartment in that part of town costs a lot more than $750, and supply is even more limited.

This reddit thread has a lot of different reactions (mostly negative), but what do you think? Would you be able to live in a tiny, unsanitary place like that if that could help you save money?

whiskeyjack

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I could have done it when I was a student but I would prefer to just get some roommates.

druth

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Definitely not frugal, you are paying for a brand new building, chances that it will be a better deal than a not brand new building are low.  like Whiskey said, just get some roommates.  The article points out it's twice the $/sq. ft. of other places, so get a place four times as big and put a curtain in the middle and you are coming equal on money but with a real kitchen, bathroom, etc.

Rosbif

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I had an 8m 'apartment' when I first came to Paris. That's about 80sqft. Toilet was out in the corridor. 80-200 sqft is really common here. With prices at about 10k/m, 130sqft would be about 130k to buy...

Metric Mouse

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I think its an interesting design. Wouldn't worry me to have a toilet being out in the open - I've peed outside before. Less to clean, less room to accumulate stuff - I can see the advantages (price clearly not being one of them)

mm1970

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Kind of ugly, but not far off from the shared efficiency apartment I had in college in Pittsburgh, which is currently priced at $9770 a year, per student x2 students.  Approx 350-400 sf.

TheGrimSqueaker

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Does this actually meet Seattle's building codes for human occupancy?

Roboturner

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This is almost exactly what i lived in when I lived in city-center London - my wet bathroom had a door though - sort of - it was like an airplane stall and you could take a shower on the toilet (CAN SOMEONE SAY TIME SAVER?! :P)

Making Cookies

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A "prison cell" in Seattle or a comfortable house with a yard on a nice street in flyover country?

Our house payment is less than rent for this storage box in Seattle.

Gin1984

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Does this actually meet Seattle's building codes for human occupancy?
It is almost identical to the university dorm.

obstinate

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A "prison cell" in Seattle or a comfortable house with a yard on a nice street in flyover country?
Would definitely prefer the prison cell in Seattle, personally.

TomTX

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Shit, that's better than the dorm room I had in college.

And with the large windows, everyone can see me pee!

Freedom Invested

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Looking at some of the prices around the area I think I could deal with this apartment as a college student.

I wouldn't move to the city as a professional if they didn't give me a cost of living increase.

pbkmaine

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Would they let you have a dorm fridge and a convection/microwave? Because I could totally live there then. After putting up curtains for the toilet area, of course.

NoStacheOhio

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A "prison cell" in Seattle or a comfortable house with a yard on a nice street in flyover country?

Our house payment is less than rent for this storage box in Seattle.

Yeah, we're paying $710 for ~1300 square feet, and that was with only 5% down (no PMI!).

In the abstract, it isn't that different than a dorm room, so the space wouldn't bother me (at least, pre-marriage/kid). But $750? Hell no.

Making Cookies

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What you said... For the price, someone is paying top dollar for the same space as our shed for price similar to what we pay for our house.

That said - there have been times when that much private space would have been heaven when I was younger.

Goldielocks

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You are missing something very important -- It allows pets under 15lbs!   Imagine adding a cat or small dog to the space.

My apartment for university included bathroom and a kitchen area and was 220 sqft including interior walls, and was very liveable, the only challenge I see here is the openness of the toilet area.. I might prefer a down the hall toilet and just a sink in the room.

TomTX

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My apartment for university included bathroom and a kitchen area and was 220 sqft including interior walls, and was very liveable, the only challenge I see here is the openness of the toilet area.. I might prefer a down the hall toilet and just a sink in the room.

That's how the dorms are (were?) at the US Naval Academy. Sink is in-room, toilet down the hall.

Of course, that might be better phrased as Sink/Urinal is in-room....
« Last Edit: December 10, 2016, 05:50:44 AM by TomTX »

No Name Guy

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Too bad the dip shits in Seattle are making it difficult for more of these to be built.  The city could use 2,000 units of privately developed, no subsidy, apartments for under a grand a month....as a start.

If anyone would actually read the article - yes, it is 100% legal.

It also compares with the cheapest private space to rent in Seattle per the article.  The alternative to this (for a person who insists on their own space) is a full up studio apartment.  Those are a hella-lot more expensive.  Good luck finding one for under a grand (or more) a month.

So, OP, frugal or folly?  Frugal, hands down.

Indexer

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It is for students right?

Well, at least around here, it's a step up from a dorm room. Dorm rooms are about the same size, shared with another person at that, and the only other difference is that the toilet/shower are communal and down the hall.

Metric Mouse

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My apartment for university included bathroom and a kitchen area and was 220 sqft including interior walls, and was very liveable, the only challenge I see here is the openness of the toilet area.. I might prefer a down the hall toilet and just a sink in the room.

That's how the dorms are (were?) at the US Naval Academy. Sink is in-room, toilet down the hall.

Of course, that might be better phrased as Sink/Urinal is in-room....

Classy... :D

Paul der Krake

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I don't care about people outside watching me poop, but any chance of romance is dead in the water.

GetItRight

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I don't understand where you get unsanitory from. Also there looks like plenty fo space on the grounds that could ahve been used to build a larger structure.

Anyhow, I could do it but this would be a last resort type of place for me. At $750/mo I'll take the comfortable house in flyover country and be money ahead of an uber efficiency in Seattle.

seattlecyclone

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Also there looks like plenty fo space on the grounds that could ahve been used to build a larger structure.

You'd think so, but very little housing gets built in Seattle these days that isn't at or near the maximum size allowed by the zoning code. More than half of our privately held land is set aside exclusively for detached single-family dwellings on lots 5,000 square feet or larger. Of the rest, about half is zoned for industrial use only. This leaves a very small fraction for any apartments, townhomes, dorm rooms, etc. Even on this land, height limits and building floor area limits really place a damper on construction. Prices are high because we haven't been building housing as fast as people are moving here to work for tech companies. A big part of this is that we simply aren't allowing enough to be built. There's an effort underway to increase these limits in many areas, which should hopefully help a bit.

Anyway, a follow-up article says there's been a lot of interest in this new unit. Seems like they found a ripe target market. Price and privacy are features. When you're the cheapest private unit for miles around, lots of people will be interested in that even if the bathroom doesn't have a door.

Cathy

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Anybody who would describe this apartment as a "prison cell" hasn't thought very long or very hard about the essential characteristics of prison, such as (in no particular order):
  • You aren't free to leave, or to choose where to live. You can't run a normal business or work a normal job. You can't go to ordinary school.
  • You are denied the ability to manage your own affairs, including administering your own finances, or even choosing what clothes to wear each day.
  • You are separated from everybody you love and your only ability to communicate with those people is sporadic at best and through limited and heavily monitored channels.
  • You lose all access to the internet and can no longer connect with your online friends, or learn new things by reading Wikipedia.
  • The very limited privileges that you retain are revocable at the arbitrary discretion of state agents who consider you to be less than human.
  • You are forced to deal with a range of individuals that you might not otherwise want to deal with, some of whom may be violent and may assault, rape, or kill you.
  • If you are a member of certain minority groups, you can expect to be discriminated against in a broad variety of ways by the state, its agents, and other inmates. You may be unsure whether you will live through each day.


The apartment discussed in this topic has none of those features. Choosing to live in a small apartment does not mean you are in prison.

Why do I make this obvious point? In the United States and Canada, we have an extremely punitive penological system. Prison in these countries is a punishment so severe that it is arguably inhumane. And yet people in these countries want the punishments to be longer and harsher. And we casually act like prison is no big deal, and is comparable to living in a small apartment. If that is true, of course prison sentences ought to longer and harder, right?

In my opinion, we are far too vindictive toward prisoners in the United States and Canada, and describing this apartment as a "prison cell" is contributing to that. This is an apartment building, not a prison.
« Last Edit: December 11, 2016, 02:23:21 PM by Cathy »

Christof

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I don't think this is a lot different in Germany... Prison cells here can be as small as 50 sq ft with the average being 80-100, so smaller than this apartment.

Dicey

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Just curious, how many of these floorplans are in this building? Are they filling some "affordability"  requirement by shoehorning these units into the awkwardly narrow end of the flatiron? I wonder if the rest of the units aren't larger with correspondingly higher rents.

Metric Mouse

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I don't think this is a lot different in Germany... Prison cells here can be as small as 50 sq ft with the average being 80-100, so smaller than this apartment.

Yes, but what is the prison population there? And for what crimes does one go to prison in the USA, that they would not in Germany? That was the point of the post.

Making Cookies

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Prison in the USA: how about making time with a prostitute while smoking marijuana. That ought to be good for several decades of incarceration. Even longer if you are a minority or perhaps LGBQT.

In Germany the officer wouldn't blink an eye. 

onlykelsey

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I've clearly been in Manhattan too long, but this seems like an amazing deal to me. I think that's less than I paid for my fifty-year-old shared dorm room with 8 women to the shower ten years ago, haha.

Poking around on Seattle real estate sites, it looks like you might be able to find a one-bedroom with real bathroom and subdivide with a roommate for a similar price, but it seems to come down to a matter of taste which of those arrangements you'd prefer.

dougules

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This is so not a prison cell.  It has a huge window.  In prison you can't go out and buy a shoji screen to put around the toilet. 

I met a family in India that had 6 people living in what I'd estimate was around 300 sq ft, and they seemed reasonably happy.  They would think that apartment was high class.  It even has access to a real kitchen.  And the same thing that applies to them applies to this apartment; when you're centrally located the neighborhood is your living room. 

This kind of thing is the only way out of the housing affordability issues on the coasts, too.  New construction may drive the prices up in the short run, but it will be way worse in the long run if you don't build it.

And I'm not sure how this is unsanitary.
« Last Edit: December 12, 2016, 11:13:06 AM by dougules »

Freedom Invested

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Anybody who would describe this apartment as a "prison cell" hasn't thought very long or very hard about the essential characteristics of prison, such as (in no particular order):

I believe the OP was only trying to be hyperbolic (and mostly in reference to the size) to draw attention to unique living arrangements. And to get some mustachian opinions on it. I don't think he meant it as any commentary on the deplorable state of prisons in North America or how easy it is to get sent there.

partgypsy

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I wish there was pictures for the place. I might go for something like this, depending on how much I was making for living in that location.

Lia-Aimee

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There's plenty of affordable rental housing in Seattle if you know where to look.  I live about 15-20 minutes from there in a very trendy neighborhood (Cap Hill/ Madrona border) for $675 month utilities included - furnished room.  Looking on craigslist there are several rooms for rent posted in the last 3 days in the $750 range in UDistrict, Roosevelt/Ravenna, Green Lake, and Greenwood neighborhoods (all easy bus / cycle commutes do the U-District.)

Cwadda

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I currently live in an unfinished bathroom right now, paying $450/month in rent plus utilities. It's near my local university. Rents are insane.

No Name Guy

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I've clearly been in Manhattan too long, but this seems like an amazing deal to me. I think that's less than I paid for my fifty-year-old shared dorm room with 8 women to the shower ten years ago, haha.

Poking around on Seattle real estate sites, it looks like you might be able to find a one-bedroom with real bathroom and subdivide with a roommate for a similar price, but it seems to come down to a matter of taste which of those arrangements you'd prefer.

What is this "subdivide" that you speak of?

Out in the real world (aka outside of NYC) people aren't allowed to modify rented dwellings without owner permission.

lhamo

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There's plenty of affordable rental housing in Seattle if you know where to look.  I live about 15-20 minutes from there in a very trendy neighborhood (Cap Hill/ Madrona border) for $675 month utilities included - furnished room.  Looking on craigslist there are several rooms for rent posted in the last 3 days in the $750 range in UDistrict, Roosevelt/Ravenna, Green Lake, and Greenwood neighborhoods (all easy bus / cycle commutes do the U-District.)

I don't know that I agree 100% that there is "plenty" of affordable housing, but it is certainly possible to find livable spaces for reasonable prices if you are willing to look.  The apartment I lived in last year was a 2 br/2 ba condo about 20-30 min north of the UW by bus (direct express bus line).  I paid $1600, which was a really good deal. The bedrooms were large enough that two couples could have shared it if they also shared cooking duties (small but functional kitchen).   All utilities besides electricity included in the rent, and elect. averaged $50/month. 

The 2br layout didn't work with both my kids, so I moved (and the landlady raised the rent to $1900/month for the next tenant).  Now I'm in a 3 BR townhouse that could easily house 5-6 adults in a shared situation -- two master bedrooms with their own baths upstairs, and another small bedroom with a 3/4 bath downstairs.  I'm paying just under $2400/month in rent, with another $150 or so a month for utillities (garbage and water are EXPENSIVE -- elec. still about the same)

People are willing to pay for proximity to campus and relative privacy, though.  For me, the downside with any student-oriented development is the tendency for things to get loud/raucous late at night on the weekends and during school breaks. 

This article, written by an architect who designs and develops these kinds of "apodment" buildings, is not unbiased but does provide an interesting overview of the history of zoning code interpretations that is squeezing them out of the Seattle property scene.  I personally think the kind of "we must only have single family houses in our quaint close-in Seattle neighborhood"type of rampant NIMBYism is one of the worst things about Seattle.  Density is not the enemy, people.  Sprawl and traffic are the real enemies.  Well-planned, well-executed density is an amazing thing and keeps a city vibrant.

[/end rant]

Anyway, the article....

http://www.sightline.org/2016/09/06/how-seattle-killed-micro-housing/


theadvicist

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I really don't see why they couldn't have 'boxed in' the loo. Would it really take up that much room / be that hard?

Because other than that, for a student, it looks great! I had a room with a sink, shared bathroom down the hall. And not stalls - one bathroom for six of us. So if someone was in the shower, you couldn't pee. If someone was doing their business, you couldn't shower. I would have LOVED my own loo because of gastro issues that caused me a lot of hassle / anxiety when I knew I was taking up the whole bathroom of six people!

But, yeah, not open into the room. A decorative folding screen and I would have loved it though.

onlykelsey

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I've clearly been in Manhattan too long, but this seems like an amazing deal to me. I think that's less than I paid for my fifty-year-old shared dorm room with 8 women to the shower ten years ago, haha.

Poking around on Seattle real estate sites, it looks like you might be able to find a one-bedroom with real bathroom and subdivide with a roommate for a similar price, but it seems to come down to a matter of taste which of those arrangements you'd prefer.

What is this "subdivide" that you speak of?

Out in the real world (aka outside of NYC) people aren't allowed to modify rented dwellings without owner permission.

Oh, I actually meant subdivide as in share like siblings or put up a bookcase or curtain.  I can't imagine students would have money to do a proper subdividing wall setup.

TheGrimSqueaker

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There's plenty of affordable rental housing in Seattle if you know where to look.  I live about 15-20 minutes from there in a very trendy neighborhood (Cap Hill/ Madrona border) for $675 month utilities included - furnished room.  Looking on craigslist there are several rooms for rent posted in the last 3 days in the $750 range in UDistrict, Roosevelt/Ravenna, Green Lake, and Greenwood neighborhoods (all easy bus / cycle commutes do the U-District.)

I don't know that I agree 100% that there is "plenty" of affordable housing, but it is certainly possible to find livable spaces for reasonable prices if you are willing to look.  The apartment I lived in last year was a 2 br/2 ba condo about 20-30 min north of the UW by bus (direct express bus line).  I paid $1600, which was a really good deal. The bedrooms were large enough that two couples could have shared it if they also shared cooking duties (small but functional kitchen).   All utilities besides electricity included in the rent, and elect. averaged $50/month. 

The 2br layout didn't work with both my kids, so I moved (and the landlady raised the rent to $1900/month for the next tenant).  Now I'm in a 3 BR townhouse that could easily house 5-6 adults in a shared situation -- two master bedrooms with their own baths upstairs, and another small bedroom with a 3/4 bath downstairs.  I'm paying just under $2400/month in rent, with another $150 or so a month for utillities (garbage and water are EXPENSIVE -- elec. still about the same)

People are willing to pay for proximity to campus and relative privacy, though.  For me, the downside with any student-oriented development is the tendency for things to get loud/raucous late at night on the weekends and during school breaks. 

This article, written by an architect who designs and develops these kinds of "apodment" buildings, is not unbiased but does provide an interesting overview of the history of zoning code interpretations that is squeezing them out of the Seattle property scene.  I personally think the kind of "we must only have single family houses in our quaint close-in Seattle neighborhood"type of rampant NIMBYism is one of the worst things about Seattle.  Density is not the enemy, people.  Sprawl and traffic are the real enemies.  Well-planned, well-executed density is an amazing thing and keeps a city vibrant.

[/end rant]

Anyway, the article....

http://www.sightline.org/2016/09/06/how-seattle-killed-micro-housing/

Density doesn't have to result in squalor, either. Plenty of the larger European and Asian cities have found ways for individuals and families to live in close proximity with all the sanitary and food preparation amenities, however there is a distinction between having access to an amenity and having exclusive access to it in your living space.

In some cities, it is simply not legal to rent out an apartment that lacks a kitchen or a bathroom, even if there is shared access to the facility in a common area. Old-fashioned boarding-houses, where everyone takes their meals in the dining room and the menu is whatever the kitchen staff provides for the day, are almost completely unknown these days except for in assisted living facilities or company camps such as what you see in the oilfields. That's unfortunate, because there are lots people who don't feel an obligation to cook for themselves or entertain in the home, or who would be willing to trade those options off in favor of cheaper accommodations.

MrsPete

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Just in case you don't know, Seattle's real estate market is insane. Ditto for the rentals. Here is an article about a new micro-apartment complex that just got built in the high-density, high-demand U-district.

The target audience is the university students, and the micro-apartments are essentially prison cells: the shower, sink and toilet are all inside the room, without any doors or separators. (Good luck bringing a date to your cell!) The kitchen is communal. The wi-fi and utilities seem to be included. For the time being, anyway.

While it is possible to find a room for rent for $750 in Seattle, it probably wouldn't be anywhere near campus. Renting even a tiny studio apartment in that part of town costs a lot more than $750, and supply is even more limited.

This reddit thread has a lot of different reactions (mostly negative), but what do you think? Would you be able to live in a tiny, unsanitary place like that if that could help you save money?
We're assuming this is literally the cheapest place you can live, right?  When I was a college student, yeah, I would've done it.  The pictures don't look bad.  I'd hang a curtain to divide the shower/toilet from the rest of the living unit.  My own room wouldn't have to stay unsanitary (in fact, the pictures don't look unsanitary to me), and I would've brought in a hot plate and refrigerator. to avoid using the communal kitchen as much as possible. 
« Last Edit: December 13, 2016, 12:58:56 PM by MrsPete »

Gin1984

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Just in case you don't know, Seattle's real estate market is insane. Ditto for the rentals. Here is an article about a new micro-apartment complex that just got built in the high-density, high-demand U-district.

The target audience is the university students, and the micro-apartments are essentially prison cells: the shower, sink and toilet are all inside the room, without any doors or separators. (Good luck bringing a date to your cell!) The kitchen is communal. The wi-fi and utilities seem to be included. For the time being, anyway.

While it is possible to find a room for rent for $750 in Seattle, it probably wouldn't be anywhere near campus. Renting even a tiny studio apartment in that part of town costs a lot more than $750, and supply is even more limited.

This reddit thread has a lot of different reactions (mostly negative), but what do you think? Would you be able to live in a tiny, unsanitary place like that if that could help you save money?
We're assuming this is literally the cheapest place you can live, right?  When I was a college student, yeah, I would've done it.  The pictures don't look bad.  I'd hang a curtain to divide the shower/toilet from the rest of the living unit.  My own room wouldn't have to stay unsanitary (in fact, the pictures don't look unsanitary to me), and I would've brought in a hot plate and refrigerator. to avoid using the communal kitchen as much as possible.
Just out of curiosity, why would you avoid using the communal kitchen?

honeybbq

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Gross. No bathroom, no kitchen. What a disaster. I'm definitely a fan of cheap housing -  but that is just horrible. And that space is bigger than the dorm I had in college that I shared. But we had communal bathrooms, a TV room, and the mess hall so we didn't have to worry about food preparations. Just live in the dorms instead.

lhamo

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Gross. No bathroom, no kitchen. What a disaster. I'm definitely a fan of cheap housing -  but that is just horrible. And that space is bigger than the dorm I had in college that I shared. But we had communal bathrooms, a TV room, and the mess hall so we didn't have to worry about food preparations. Just live in the dorms instead.

There is typically a waiting list to get into the dorms.  And they are not cheap.  And there are only a few options that allow you to stay year round -- for those the cheapest rent is $872/month, PLUS you have to buy at least the minimal food plan (though I just checked and this is only $18/week extra for those in 12-month apartments).

Still, a base rate of $900/month for a room in a shared apartment through the dorm system is pretty expensive for what you get. 

Link to UW dorm rates, for those who are curious:

https://www.hfs.washington.edu/housing/9rates16-17/

Note that the cheapest options are for buildings constructed in the 60s that are going to be torn down pretty soon.  They were pretty grotty back in the '80s when my siblings lived there (McMahon Hall).  The most expensive options are new construction conveniently located to the university business district. 
« Last Edit: December 13, 2016, 04:23:40 PM by lhamo »

Dicey

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Gross. No bathroom, no kitchen. What a disaster. I'm definitely a fan of cheap housing -  but that is just horrible. And that space is bigger than the dorm I had in college that I shared. But we had communal bathrooms, a TV room, and the mess hall so we didn't have to worry about food preparations. Just live in the dorms instead.
OTOH, it's super easy to clean. Nothing gross about that.

Christof

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Prison in the USA: how about making time with a prostitute while smoking marijuana. That ought to be good for several decades of incarceration. Even longer if you are a minority or perhaps LGBQT.

In Germany the officer wouldn't blink an eye.

They probably would... we do not have the same liberal laws regarding marijuana that you have in the US. It would also depend on the state and in case of prostitutes even the city. Germany's federal structure has been modeled after the US..

It's true, though, that we do have less prisioners in relation to the to the population. About 12% what the US has. In my state it's even less with around 40 prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants compared to almost 700 in the US. That doesn't mean that our crime rates are significantly lower, though, just that we tend not to put people into prison.

honeybbq

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Gross. No bathroom, no kitchen. What a disaster. I'm definitely a fan of cheap housing -  but that is just horrible. And that space is bigger than the dorm I had in college that I shared. But we had communal bathrooms, a TV room, and the mess hall so we didn't have to worry about food preparations. Just live in the dorms instead.
OTOH, it's super easy to clean. Nothing gross about that.

I don't like toilet spray where I eat, even if promptly disinfected. No thanks.

Just Joe

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Prison in the USA: how about making time with a prostitute while smoking marijuana. That ought to be good for several decades of incarceration. Even longer if you are a minority or perhaps LGBQT.

In Germany the officer wouldn't blink an eye.

They probably would... we do not have the same liberal laws regarding marijuana that you have in the US. It would also depend on the state and in case of prostitutes even the city. Germany's federal structure has been modeled after the US..

It's true, though, that we do have less prisioners in relation to the to the population. About 12% what the US has. In my state it's even less with around 40 prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants compared to almost 700 in the US. That doesn't mean that our crime rates are significantly lower, though, just that we tend not to put people into prison.

On a side note: someone reminded me that while you'd get arrested for paying a prostitute for services and for smoking marijuana - you would not get arrested for getting paid to make adult movies or getting falling down drunk on liquor.

Is that a double standard or what? The USA is such a weird place.

dougules

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Gross. No bathroom, no kitchen. What a disaster. I'm definitely a fan of cheap housing -  but that is just horrible. And that space is bigger than the dorm I had in college that I shared. But we had communal bathrooms, a TV room, and the mess hall so we didn't have to worry about food preparations. Just live in the dorms instead.
OTOH, it's super easy to clean. Nothing gross about that.

I don't like toilet spray where I eat, even if promptly disinfected. No thanks.

It's called a screen.  You don't have to leave the toilet exposed to the room or the room exposed to the toilet. 

Gin1984

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Who need a 130 sf behemoth when you can live in a 100 sf or less apt
http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/truly-tiny-4-apartments-under-100-square-feet-213282

Although this 130 sf place in Paris is pretty nice an innovative. Its like an IKEA showroom only real:  https://www.wired.com/2012/05/paris-apartment/
I really like the storage stair idea in the Paris apartment.