Affordable dorm-style housing increasingly popular in cities

By Quynh Nguyen   August 22, 2023 | 07:57 pm PT
Instead of renting private rooms, more and more people are switching to dormitory-style living due to low costs, modern designs, and free amenities.

When Nguyen Thi Phuong, 26, heard that her rent would be only VND1.9 million (US$79) per month and she is allowed to use everything like the TV, Wi-Fi, fridge, and cooking utensils for free, she did not hesitate to sign a one-year contract.

The cost of rent had previously become a problem for Phuong, leading her to look at a dorm room for 6-8 people at a mini apartment in Ba Dinh District.

"Not only is the price cheap, but the room is also clean and modern. I never expected to be able to find this for less than VND2 million," she said.

Tran Lien, 50, has also decided to stay in the same dorm room while her house in Cau Giay District is being renovated. She explains that living in a dorm room gives her access to all the things she needs, and helps save money as it is cheaper than staying at a motel or hotel.

The dorm room in Ba Dinh District that Phuong and Lien have been staying in since July 2023. Photo by VnExpress/ Quynh Nguyen

The dorm room in Ba Dinh District that Phuong and Lien have been staying in since July 2023. Photo by VnExpress/ Quynh Nguyen

"All of my children are living abroad, so they’ve supported my decision to live here because it’s convenient and safe," Lien says.

The type of dormitory room Phuong and Lien are staying in is being called a "community homestay," a new type of lodging that has been cropping up in Hanoi over the past year.

The rooms are designed to resemble a hotel, fully furnished and with a private bathroom in each room. The shared kitchen area is on the first floor, and the laundry room is on the fifth floor, separated from the living quarters to ensure cleanliness.

In groups aimed at potential renters, many landlords consistently upload posts about modern dorm rooms for rent, with the rent in the VND1.5-2 million range, all utilities included.

A survey conducted by VnExpress in these groups showed that this dorm model is becoming increasingly popular, especially in big cities.

In Hanoi, districts that have a large student and working populations such as Cau Giay, Thanh Xuan, Dong Da, and Ba Dinh all have dormitory services. In a group that connects student renters with landlords in Hanoi with nearly 100,000 members, there were over 100 posts with the keywords "dormitory rooms" in the first half of August alone, with prices ranging from VND900.000-1.9 million per month.

With a loft bed, the ground floor is furnished with a desk and chair for work and study. Photo by KimHomes

With a loft bed, the ground floor is furnished with a desk and chair for work and study. Photo by KimHomes

Meanwhile, in HCMC, renters are interested in "sleep boxes" and dorms in District 1, 3, 10, Binh Thanh, Go Vap, Tan Binh, and Tan Phu. Depending on the needs and utilities provided, each district has anywhere from a few dozen to hundreds of dorm-style houses and apartments, with rent similar to Hanoi.

Long-term dormitory lodgings have also gained traction in Da Nang, Can Tho, and Da Lat.

Le Kim Thuy, the manager of a dormitory-style apartment chain in Hanoi, says that they have six locations in all the central districts in the city. The price for each bed is VND1.5-1.9 million per month in a room that can accommodate 4-8 people.

Higher-end triple rooms with integrated desks and beds are priced at VND2.3 million.

Similar to Phuong and Lien’s place, Thuy’s apartments have six rooms in total. Each room is 30-40 sq.m. large, which can fit anywhere from four to eight beds. Each bed is provided with a desk, drawers, and a smart locker for personal belongings.

The hallways, kitchen area, and laundry space are cleaned two times every week. Moreover, there are always staff monitoring the building and calling for repairs when needed.

After two years, there are now 120-150 renters living in Thuy’s apartments, with workers making up 60%. Whenever school starts, she often finds her rooms filled to the brim as students arrive. She often has to turn people away when she has no vacancy.

Nguyen Minh Tuan, President of the Nha Viet Management Company and Vice President of the Hanoi Real Estate Club, states that the trend of turning traditional rooms and apartments into dormitory rooms is an essential process that other countries in the world have done many years ago.

"This is an epochal shift that allows real estate owners to create demand in the midst of rising rent. The renters are able to solve their economic problems while also enjoying the best service," Tuan says.

Phuong admits that sharing a space with seven other strangers used to be a point of contention for her.

"But to my surprise, my roommates are all happy, friendly, and respectful of each other’s privacy, so I feel very comfortable living here," she says.

On the other hand, living with strangers has helped to diminish Lien’s loneliness, as opposed to when she lived alone without her children.

"I used to dread coming home because I was alone, but now I always look forward to finishing work early because I know my roommates are waiting to eat dinner with me. I even feel happier and younger somehow," the 50-year-old woman says.

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