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Meet the 24-year-old who wants to build a group of high-tech hotels that cost only $2 a night

Published by Business Insider on Wed, 17 Aug 2016

For people who can't afford rent, let alone buy their own apartment, what's the best recourse' Get placed in a housing project' Sign up for a housing lottery' How about a hotel'Rhea Silva is the24-year-old founder of Chototel, a chain of super-budget hotels where the price per night can range from$2 at the cheapest to a surge price of $5 at its most expensive.Her companyis piloting four hotel buildings in Nagothane, a small Indian town about 72 miles outside of Mumbai. The first is opening next month, while the other three are coming in the following four months. Each building holds 60 flats each.Each of the flats, as seen in the renderings below, is outfitted with a loft bed, closet space, sink, and a TV.There's also a bare bones kitchen setup with a hot plate, dish rack, and counterspace.Silva says Chototel's flexible modelisenticing because ourattitudes toward homeownership havechanged."We recognize that people no longer want to buy a housetheywant to be able to stay in a place that's close to [their] work," she told Business Insider. "Theywant to be able to stay in a place that's not a three-bedroom mansion, but ratherjusttheirown little studio apartment where they have privacy."You can already see traces of this downsizeddomesticityin the tiny home trend, which are shifting more and more to uniform and quickly buildable designs while still making efficient use of space.Thebigdifference is that the audienceChototel is appealing to isn't well-heeled tenants looking to downsizeit's people who won'tnecessarily be able toafford rent on a monthly basis, but can likely pay it little by little."Peoplelike to stay in placeswherethey're not spending 50% to 60% of their income on housing," she said. "Homeownership has dropped to its lowest rate since 1965. And that's because people, aren'tpossessive about the idea of owning a house anymore. They're moreinto the idea ofconvenience."Of course,nightly rent isn't the only way the hotel will make returns.There are also utilities, which are all metered and charged by usage.So, theoretically, you could stay a night without turning on a light or using water or heat and pay around $2 for the benefit of having a clean room with a bed and free Wi-Fi. But if you need those utilities, there are tools that can help yousave onusage and costs.Silva says that the rooms are outfitted with microbots, which take in several data points to report back to the hotel and the tenant. That way, there's a transparent two-way exchange of information about the tenant's consumption and habits.The tenants can alsomonitor their consumptionthrough a smartphone app, which, like with a smart home system, also allows them to turn off a utility remotely.And what if you don't have a phone' Is there any way to track your usage then' Whileyou might thinkthe sort of person who can't afford rent can't afford a smartphone, Silva thinks differently."Smartphones today are very, very cheap and very affordable and a lot of people use their smartphone as a means for communication," shesaid.Indeed, India is the world's second-largest market for smartphones, and they're still getting cheaper. So it's likely many of Chototel's tenants will at least have a device that's able to run the app.The amount of fine tuning and flexible schedulingChototelallows for puts it squarely between a budget hotel and affordable housing. Silva avoids the latter term because she says she wants people to feel the privilege and comfort of saying they're stayingin a hotel rather than call it a project.And while the first few pilot hotels are being funded through the company's own equity, Chototel is planning on raising finances in the public market in the next month to fund the next few expansions.The pilot will kick off with these four hotels, but Silva says that if they prove sustainable, her company will raise funds toscale up, massively. She says that her next location in Mumbai, if Nagothane proves useful, could house up to 10,000 occupants.And that flexible model, which isn't as easily replicable in public housing, is winningsome public support from local municipalities, tooenough that the company is planning on several expansions within the next few years. The company is looking to Dubai, Lagos, Mumbai, and Bristolfor their next locations.SEE ALSO:8 beautifully designed budget hotels where you can stay for around $100Join the conversation about this storyNOW WATCH: What it's like to go 'glamping' for $2,500 a night on top of a luxury hotel in NYC
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