Survey Says: Rent is So Expensive, Lots of People are Paying to Sleep in Living Rooms

published Feb 6, 2017
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(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

If you’re reading this from New York City or Boston or San Francisco (or really anywhere!), I don’t have to tell you: the rent is too damn high. (It’s an old meme, but it checks out because it’s still too damn true.) Wages aren’t keeping up with the cost of living, and housing in metro areas is getting prohibitively expensive.

“Prohibitively” expensive? Isn’t that a word you use when costs are so high that they prevent most people from buying that thing? We’re talking about housing, it’s a necessity for survival. How can rent—a fundamental expense for 35 percent of the country—become prohibitively expensive? Well, I’ll tell you: Housing is too expensive when people start paying rent to sleep in living rooms.

A study conducted late last year by SpareRoom found that 57 percent of shared households are made up of 3 or more people, with 14 percent made up of 5 or more. And a whopping 22 percent of shared households have converted their living room into a bedroom to fit all those roommates.

(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

It’s not exactly as it sounds; we’re not talking about couch surfers here. These living room dwellers are making this new normal work for them with temporary walls. The New York Times recently profiled a handful of NYC-area households like the ones uncovered in the SpareRoom study, including a group of four “gainfully employed 20-somethings” who share a one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment in Manhattan:

For the male roommates, the group installed a T-shaped wall in the living room, dividing it into two bedrooms, leaving space for a kitchen table in a common area. Mr. Morgan and Mr. Bell have hardly any privacy; building regulations require the bedroom walls to stop about two feet shy of the ceiling. “You can hear everything,” Ms. Jackson said.

Click on over to the article to check out photos of the spaces they profiled and you’ll see, the makeshift bedrooms are actually really… normal. Just small. And sorta public. And the fact that we can even for a second consider a bedroom constructed in a living room, possibly against all better judgement and fire codes, “normal” is, well, not normal. But I guess it’s what needs to be done these days for young professionals to find affordable housing close to work.