California-based Homeroom offering KC room rentals in old-style communal houses

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- They're building a community, one stranger at a time.

Homeroom, a West Coast-based firm, is banking on Kansas City millennials who'll move in together and share homes.

They don`t know one another yet, but they`ll soon become roommates. Homeroom makes housing available to people who don`t want or can`t afford an apartment or house.

Johnny Wolff, Homeroom's CEO, said some millennials want the social aspect of making friends and being social by living together in homes like this 1903 shirtwaist house near Old Hyde Park.

"We want the house to be communal. We want it to be about relationship building rather than just where you come to live," Wolff, 35, said.

Furnishings won't arrive at the Old Hyde Park house yet, but soon, as many as five residents, or members, as Homeroom calls them, will. They'll sublease a room in each Homeroom house from Wolff's company, who leases the homes from their respective owners. Wolff told FOX 4 News he got the idea while living alone in Texas, and realizing how much he missed living with others.

"I think a lot of young folks, when they leave work, they want to spend time with friends. We're trying to create a community here where you actually get friends at a discounted price," Wolff said on Monday.

Wolff said the lowest price for a bare bones apartment in the Kansas City metro is $850, when utilities are rolled into the cost. Becoming a member at one of his Homeroom houses is roughly half that total, with the lowest price of renting a room at $400. Wolff said cost of renting a room varies depending on demand and location.

The company CEO also said each property will be co-ed, and Homeroom will be selective about who is permitted to move in.

Millenial members, such as Randy Manglos, 29, is a Kansas City native who has returned to the area, and is using Homeroom to re-establish his network of friends.

"The security features and everything that goes along with Homeroom makes me feel more comfortable, and the fact that I get to meet whoever comes in makes me feel more comfortable with the situation," Manglos said.

The Hyde Park home is one of five properties Homeroom already operates in the Kansas City metro. Jessica Barr and her family own the home.

"The concept of being around people who might be considered strangers is actually kind of unique," Barr said. "You get to meet people. For somebody who's maybe a stranger themselves in a new environment and new city, it opens doors to meet others and have a safe comfortable place to be."

Wolff said background checks are run to ensure that potential members are safe and financially trustworthy, but chemistry among housemates is important, too. People who plan to live together need to get along.

Homeroom got its start in the San Francisco area, but its operators also own a series of communal houses in Austin, Texas. The company hopes to have as many as 100 Homeroom houses within the next five years.