This year, a new co-living community launched in Falls Church, making it the first of its kind for both the city and the country.
Perch Houses, developed by D.C.-based nonprofit Healthworx Studio, offers housing for middle-income women over 55-years-old. According to their June press release, Perch Houses believes that living in an “affordable home” and experiencing shared community “will lead to improved quality of life.”
The founder and CEO of Perch Houses, Wing Pepper, said the idea behind the new co-living service addressed two problems in the current market: seniors having to age “alone and isolated” and the “forgotten middle” — those who have $50,000 — $250,000 in savings but also do not qualify for low income subsidies.
“[Perch Houses] looked at those two problems in society, and we found that the group that’s hit the hardest by the combination of those two things are 55+ women,” Pepper said. “We looked at this group and the problems, and we’re like ‘We need to solve this in a different way.’”
Another issue Perch addresses is rising rent prices since the pandemic, which Pepper said went up “anywhere from 10 to 25 percent.” To solve this problem, along with creating a community and helping navigate the healthcare system, Pepper and the rest of the Perch team found houses through Zillow and various real estate websites to bring a co-living service for 55+ middle-income women.
So far, the first five houses for Perch will be located in Falls Church, which Pepper said is for three important reasons: the progressiveness of Fairfax County in “encouraging new senior living models,” the “great community” Falls Church provides by being diverse and near local cities such as D.C. and the company being D.C.-based so that they can be “hands-on” with their renters.
Women seeking to live in one of Perch’s houses can find three to four other women to room with, or reach out to the living service and fill out a “personality matching” survey so women with similar personalities can live together. Since the founders of Perch come from a “healthcare background,” Pepper said the team is a “navigation service” for renters who may have questions about their health.
“It’s not just new in Northern Virginia, it’s new anywhere,” Pepper said when asked about Perch’s “pilot” program here in Falls Church. “We’re doing our best to get our name out there.”
To create a “community,” Pepper said it is important to remember that renters are independent and can make their own decisions. Perch ensures that the renters are not lonely by providing roommates to socialize with, while also having the houses in close proximity to each other.
“Community to us is about being around people,” Pepper said.
Paying for the co-living service is similar to renting an apartment, as Pepper said women who live in a Perch House would be responsible for the rent of their bedroom and bathroom. The company is currently in the process of finding renters in the area, although Pepper said there has been “lots of interest” by locals to live in one of the houses.
“One is peace of mind and relief about affording to live in Falls Church and not feeling price pressure,” Pepper said when asked about how he hopes renters will react. “The second thing is joy from being around other people and not being isolated.”
As for what the future holds for Perch Houses and its prospective renters, Pepper said he hopes that the company has created a “safe and affordable living environment for women” and finds the “best houses” for renters to live in.
“We can’t solve every problem,” Pepper said. “Our [goal] is to provide affordable living within a community in that age range for single women.”