Room and no board

It’s called a “lodging house,” and if you live in Portland, Maine, they’re coming your way:

Developers say the lodging houses are a response to Portland’s acute shortage of affordable places to live. But there is a financial angle, too — when you face construction prices at a 10-year high, a lodging house is cheaper to build than residences with individual plumbing, heating and electrical systems.

“You can’t build apartments; they are costing a fortune,” said Bill Simpson, owner of Class Acts Management.

Simpson wants to convert apartments at 1190 Forest Ave. into 20 single rooms. He has plans to put up a new four-story building with 88 rooms at 263 Cumberland Ave. to replace a boardinghouse he already owns there. He also owns another boardhouse next door, at 273 Cumberland Ave.

He plans clean, furnished, low-rent spaces that include utilities, WiFi and security systems. House rules require residents to check in, guests are not allowed after 9 p.m. and there is no drinking in the hallways or common areas.

I’ve been in dormitories like that. (Except Wi-Fi, which didn’t exist back then.)

Simpson thinks he can make lodging houses work financially with just a traditional bank loan and reliable rental income.

In contrast, developers building conventional residences “are having to charge $1,600 a month for a one-bedroom apartment,” he said.

“I don’t think people can afford it, I don’t think it is going to last,” Simpson added. “I think people can afford $800 a month.”

Cheaper than a bunk bed in San Francisco, anyway.

(Via Catherynne Valente.)


  1. Jay »

    23 July 2019 · 11:16 am

    I lived in a rooming house part of my undergraduate years. Inexpensive, no phone, no pool, no pets, just one step above a trailer. Had to share a bathroom with three other women on the same floor of the house. Had to learn how to move things out of my way I shouldn’t of had to without a closer level of familiarity with the owner(s).

    And the wife used to live in Portland on Forest Ave. It’s not a bad area, a mix of retail, apartments, and single family homes, right near downtown, University of New England, and University of Southern Maine. I suspect the developer sees students as one good possibility to fill his rooms.

  2. fillyjonk »

    23 July 2019 · 11:31 am

    Where I went to college they were called “Co-ops” and I guess the residents kind of made the rules (I presume there was a landlord; most of the co-ops had been around far longer than the tenure of one student – if there were a student with a family rich enough to buy a house in a college town).

    IIRC, Co-ops were either a low-cost option (you did all the work around the place and usually they were not that great and a long hike from campus) or a way for the like-minded to live together (late 80s, when veganism was less common, there was a vegan co-op)

    Though IDK, I paid the 1980s equivalent of $1200 for a studio apartment by myself, so maybe $800 for a room and kitchen and bathroom access is not so crazy, though the people who used to use what were called SROs are gonna be priced out of it. (I don’t know what SROs go for these days if they even still exist)

  3. McGehee »

    23 July 2019 · 11:58 am

    Flophouses. The 21st century isn’t turning out like I was promised.

  4. Dan T. »

    23 July 2019 · 8:27 pm

    From 1921 to 1984, one could find Our Boarding House in the funny pages:

  5. The Other McCain »

    24 July 2019 · 1:32 pm

    In The Mailbox: 07.24.19 (Morning Edition)

    […] Dustbury: Room & No Board […]

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