A halt in tourism and business travel to New York City left lots of short-term rental apartments here vacant, just as a pressing need for furnished apartments emerged from new types of renters: Medical professionals coming to the city to help fight the pandemic and families who need extra space to quarantine or work at home.
Short-term rental companies like Furnished Quarters, Outpost Club, and Blueground are pivoting to address this new demand and finding their role in the fight against the pandemic. They are joining the NYC hotels that have become “barracks” for healthcare workers. Others like Sonder are relaxing their requirements to give renters greater flexibility in uncertain times.
It’s a silver-lining story for this segment of rentals pummeled by the shutdown. However, for some companies like Sonder and Lyric, the drop in demand has resulted in major layoffs.
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Demand from medical professionals
Doctors, nurses, and emergency workers are renting apartments from Furnished Quarters because they don’t want to head home to their families after their shift is over, for fear of spreading the infection, the company says.
Furnished Quarters has had over 200 reservations in recent weeks connected to the pandemic and is offering discounted rates. Many apartments on their website have been cut to $99 per day with a 30-day minimum, and they are offering additional discounts for medical professionals.
One renter is a home health aide who took a job caring for someone who was recently discharged from the hospital after being treated for Covid-19. She rented a temporary furnished apartment from a Furnished Quarters location in White Plains, New York, so that she could take care of the patient and avoid infecting her family with the virus.
In many cases, the workload is a contributing factor. Some renters are local emergency responders who are working double shifts and don’t have time to go home to sleep.
“We realized there was a lot of need on the local level in our own community,” says Victoria Yanakos, executive vice president of sales at Furnished Quarters.
NYC families short on space
Other renters seeking space now are New York City families impacted by the shutdown.
“We’ve had some executives who need a quiet apartment in or near their building so that the kids don’t interrupt while they’re on conference calls or working,” says Robin Spindel, executive vice president of marketing for Furnished Quarters. Families that have kids home from shuttered colleges have also requested accommodations and some requests have come from families who have a member who is sick and needs to be isolated.
The company is able to accommodate families often in the same building or nearby because it has apartments in over 65 NYC buildings. At some locations, Furnished Quarters owns entire buildings, and in other locations, holds the master lease on a good number of apartments—as many as 50 units in one building.
Furnished Quarters was also able to assist New Yorkers in another important way.
The shutdown hurts fragile populations like victims of domestic violence, who are trapped with their abusers. “Shelters are full, so we have helped with dozens of apartments,” Yanakos says, an experience she calls “very humbling.”
Efforts from other short-term companies
In other shifts by short-term rental companies: Blueground has a new program offering up 100 apartments at buildings around the world, with 15 apartments set aside for medical workers at Mount Sinai.
Stays at Sonder are usually seven nights or less, but during the pandemic, the company is discounting stays that are more than 14 days. The company has seen a positive response from “college students, military personnel, displaced foreign diplomats, members of the press, healthcare professionals, and those who have been forced to isolate themselves due to ill family members,” according to a spokesperson.
And as Brick Underground previously reported, Outpost Club has set aside housing for traveling medical staff.
“Interns and corporate clients represented about 40 percent of our tenants prior to this crisis. As those tenants started to cancel or leave to return home, we started to re-group the other tenants in a way that could free up some apartments and even houses,” says Sergii Starostin, CEO of Outpost Club.
The freed-up housing is being offered at a special rate to healthcare workers and college students who were pushed out of their dorms. The students have been added to existing houses, while healthcare workers will have their own dedicated spaces.
The company is offering medical professionals two flat rates, $990 or $1,190 per month, including utilities. There is no security deposit and medical staff can stay month to month.
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