Living Alone in the U.S. Is Harder Than It Should Be
October 24, 2021 9:32 AM   Subscribe

In ways both large and small, American society still assumes that the default adult has a partner and that the default household contains multiple people. Many who live by themselves are effectively penalized at work too. “Lots of people I interviewed complained that their managers presumed they had extra time to stay at the office or take on extra projects because they don’t have family at home,” Eric Klinenberg, the author of the 2012 book Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone and a sociologist at NYU, told me. “Some said that they were not compensated fairly either, because managers gave raises to people based on the impression that they had more expenses, for child care and so on.”
posted by folklore724 (146 comments total) 58 users marked this as a favorite
 
This also pops up with having surgery. Protocol in the US is that you get discharged from relatively minor procedures almost as soon as you're awake but you are not completely independent or clear of the time you might have complications of anesthesia like confusion, so they assume you have family or roommates to babysit you at home for at least 24 hours. Pointing out that you don't have anyone to help you at home 24/7 even if you have friends to check on you is enough for a discharge nurse to treat you like a total pariah.
posted by slow graffiti at 9:44 AM on October 24, 2021 [101 favorites]


Protocol in the US is that you get discharged from relatively minor procedures almost as soon as you're awake

I recently had to pay for a "medical transport" for exactly this reason -- the staff wouldn't allow me to stay until sober, they wouldn't allow me to hire a cab/Uber/Lyft, they refused to believe I didn't have anyone to pick me up (I mean, they actually said "I don't believe there's nobody who can pick you up") and so the only "solution" they had was to pay a minor fortune for a "trained" individual to drive me home in a car that had a small medkit in it. US healthcare being as corrupt and decaying as it is, I pretty much assume there's kickbacks going on somewhere in there.
posted by aramaic at 9:59 AM on October 24, 2021 [36 favorites]


This also happens to couples without kids. It is often assumed we will pick up shifts or work late because we can't possibly having anything else important in our lives if we don't have children.
posted by Kitteh at 10:00 AM on October 24, 2021 [23 favorites]


I got real salty with a friend of mine recently who had just bought an expensive apartment with her husband and was carrying on about how glad she was to be out of her terrible, tiny apartment. That was bigger and more expensive than I could ever afford. Forget about saving a down payment alone.

And travel, oh boy. Hotels cost twice as much if you're traveling alone.

The medical and care-taking issues are huge too. Saving for retirement alone. Paying for retirement alone is on my mind a lot these days.
posted by Mavri at 10:00 AM on October 24, 2021 [8 favorites]


The article is specifically about people who live alone, so it would be great if we could avoid "couples too" comments.
posted by Mavri at 10:02 AM on October 24, 2021 [71 favorites]


I'm reasonably healthy and I have family nearby so a lot of the medical issues are less of a problem. However the logistical burden of running a household as a single person is sometimes pretty heavy. I don't have someone else to share the duty of putting out the garbage bins, calling a plumber, arranging for a cleaner. It's just me. And since I just started a new job with a much higher cognitive load, I often just let things slide. It's too much work to call a cleaner, I'll just vacuum myself and ignore the dust bunnies.

It reminds me of when I went to law school: my fellow students who were working full-time and taking night classes absolutely had to be married or partnered to make it work. They literally didn't have time to do the laundry or feed themselves otherwise.
posted by suelac at 10:05 AM on October 24, 2021 [30 favorites]


I mean, a lot of these problems are solved by coupling up as people have done since the literally the dawn of humanity. Living alone is a very, very recent phenomenon and almost exclusively a thing that happens in the richer western countries. In most countries, multiple generations in the same household are the norm.
posted by Damienmce at 10:10 AM on October 24, 2021 [7 favorites]


Damienmce, that seems like a uniquely unhelpful way to respond to this article, given the various ways in which most people can't just hop over to some other cultural background to solve their problems. Plus, this is all taking place in a society which does, in fact, encourage people to live alone, either as a rite of passage, to avoid abuse, because there are various assumptions that people place on you when you live them...
posted by sagc at 10:15 AM on October 24, 2021 [89 favorites]


there's a difference between things being easier because you have a second pair of hands and things being harder not just because you don't, but because you're actively being penalized for it.
posted by Clowder of bats at 10:17 AM on October 24, 2021 [31 favorites]


I am not American, but as soon as my manager realized I lived alone she insisted I pick up late shifts and work extra OT. I invented family duties to get out of it and don't feel guilty in the slightest. Years ago I left a career I loved because it was built around the assumption that its mostly female workforce were all partnered or otherwise supported by family money.

A relative was complaining to me the other day that she had to go to a medical appointment alone because of COVID and it was so stressful, poor her. I was like "...". As an adult I've never been accompanied to any appointment, not even surgery.
posted by Stoof at 10:19 AM on October 24, 2021 [29 favorites]


I mean, a lot of these problems are solved by coupling up as people have done since the literally the dawn of humanity.

That seems particularly tone deaf given the reality reported by the article: "According to the Pew Research Center, the share of American adults who aren’t married and don’t live with a romantic partner has also been growing, having jumped from 29 percent in 1990 to 38 percent in 2019."

For reasons both within and outside of people's control, the "coupling up" option just isn't happening for a lot of people. And, as the article notes, even for people who in a strict sense don't live alone (say, live with an older relative, or with a roommate), those living situations don't necessarily provide things like free rides to and from appointments, or shared hotel rooms on trips.

I was interested in this statistic: "One recent study estimated that, for a couple, living separately is about 28 percent more expensive than living together."

This seems like an underestimate to me. Because of (work, pandemic, etc), we're temporarily living in separate places, and I would estimate that we are spending far more than 28% extra to make it work, at least 50% higher and maybe more.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:20 AM on October 24, 2021 [15 favorites]


I mean, multigenerational households are no picnic and are especially damaging for daughters and daughters-in-law. There's a reason why, as more women in those traditional societies obtain higher education and salaried careers, they nope on out in favor of living alone, even with the greater financial burden and societal stigma.
posted by basalganglia at 10:24 AM on October 24, 2021 [107 favorites]


I've been facing this issue a lot this year. Just this last week I completed my Advance Healthcare Directive ("living will") and had to cross out the space for Power Of Attorney because I have no family or close friend to entrust with this. Heck, my next problem is figuring out who to name as executor of my will. This is hard enough to negotiate without people telling you, "surely there is someone you know that can do this."
posted by SPrintF at 10:25 AM on October 24, 2021 [24 favorites]


The thing is, there are hard things about living alone, but I don't think any of them are as hard as the traditional solution of entering and staying in a loveless marriage. At least, that's true for women. Loveless marriages seem to work out a lot better for men, for some reason.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:28 AM on October 24, 2021 [73 favorites]


The situation that I wish the article had given some discussion of is single parenting or caregiving, where you not only have the issue of, say, needing to arrange the ride to the appointment, but also need to arrange child care or elder care while you are away or recuperating.

There is an intersectionality to the situations that the article is discussing, rather than some kind of binary situation where you either are completely single or completely supported.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:31 AM on October 24, 2021 [9 favorites]


Even something as innocuous as the local NPR fall fundraiser has a grand prize of a trip for two to a destination of your choice (terms and conditions apply). Leaving aside the wisdom of offering this during a global pandemic, it's kind of an awkward prize for single people to win. They sometimes play recordings of previous winners who are always breathlessly excited and know exactly who they are going to take. Kind of keeps me from calling in, no matter how many times they say there's just 15 minutes left this hour to win.
posted by basalganglia at 10:33 AM on October 24, 2021 [11 favorites]


The thing that I didn't realize I'd have to deal with as a single person in a small rural town is how much you need another driver in your household. There is not a taxi service. There is barely a bus. Whenever I've had car trouble that required me to drop off my car for a couple of hours, I've had to walk at least two or three miles - once in the middle of the street because the sides of the road were two feet deep with snow. I've spent a lot of my life in more urban areas - and not only are urban areas easier to navigate without a car, they're also somewhat more conducive to developing social networks outside of family/partner.
posted by Jeanne at 10:47 AM on October 24, 2021 [56 favorites]


"Pointing out that you don't have anyone to help you at home 24/7 even if you have friends to check on you is enough for a discharge nurse to treat you like a total pariah." Btw, for anyone who knows someone in this life phase, CNAs can actually be hired from Care.com for a day or afternoon for really affordable rates. Incredibly helpful if you're having surgery in a foreign city and cannot book a friend or relative.
posted by firstdaffodils at 11:04 AM on October 24, 2021 [67 favorites]


Have any other countries made it any easier? If so, what worked?
posted by clew at 11:17 AM on October 24, 2021 [4 favorites]


I often feel that the world isn't set up for single people and doesn't quite know what to do with us. It's hard to articulate though. It's more than feeling awkward dining alone, or that sometimes people in my bible-belt city don't know what to say when they learn I don't have kids or a partner. It's like living in some weird unacknowledged space that's not quite part of the real life of the city. Parents and couples tend to befriend each other, not singles.

Men in my town are less likely than women to be liberal and educated. I'm financially independent, intelligent, creative, and liberal - I want the same in a partner. A while back I developed feelings for one of my divorced male friends that weren't reciprocated - one of the things that really stings is knowing that he has a huge pool of women who would be very happy to date him, while he was the first person who caught my interest in *YEARS* of dating, volunteering, and socializing. And it's not that I'm picky - I just can't see myself with someone who would kiss me without my consent, or drone on about how Trump and Hillary were *exactly* the same, or commit to plans and then not follow through and then pretend nothing happened, etc.

In my more bitter moments I feel like I was set up to fail - went to college, figured out how to live on my own, found a career, learned to expect more from men .. and the more I expect, the less likely I am to get anything at all. It's not that I would want to trade places with most of the married women I know. But I'm wired for love and connection, and the world I live in isn't set up for me to have that - not if I want to feel safe and respected at the same time.

/rant
posted by bunderful at 11:22 AM on October 24, 2021 [102 favorites]


One of the reasons I am looking into a change into a higher-paying career is that, as an asexual, I am likely to be single my whole life. I’ll never save for retirement on my current path. But changing careers will require moving and leaving behind the support network I have, such as it is. As an always-single, I also don’t benefit from trading social circles with partners. I have to build my own life one Lego brick at a time.

(It stings when gays try to gatekeep asexuals out of the queer community because we supposedly don’t suffer enough. That’s a whole other kettle of fish, though.)
posted by Comet Bug at 11:36 AM on October 24, 2021 [44 favorites]


I mean, a lot of these problems are solved by coupling up as people have done since the literally the dawn of humanity. Living alone is a very, very recent phenomenon and almost exclusively a thing that happens in the richer western countries. In most countries, multiple generations in the same household are the norm.

My (layperson’s) understanding is that people throughout history have sought more private space whenever they had the resources to do so, and/or compensated for this lack with radically different concepts of privacy and norms around behavior (for example, tolerance of what we would consider public sex or indecency). Medieval households also often contained unrelated people who were not in couples and were more fluid than modern nuclear or even extended family arrangements.

I was a little surprised to discover that multigenerational families with at least one grandparent, parents, and children are also apparently a minority even in Africa and Asia, where they are more common. On average, this happens in less than 1 in 5 households worldwide.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:37 AM on October 24, 2021 [19 favorites]


This has all been obvious for a long time, but I can't tell you how gratifying it is to see it in black and white, with data and stuff.

Also, my freezer is always overflowing because I can rarely go through a whole jug of milk, dozen eggs, or loaf of bread before they start to go bad.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:39 AM on October 24, 2021 [23 favorites]


Amen, bunderful.
posted by Melismata at 12:11 PM on October 24, 2021 [6 favorites]


And yes, The Underpants Monster … I eat out a ton, since I don’t want to waste food and get tired of the same meals. But this makes me a bad person, apparently, because anything other than a home cooked meal with ingredients from Whole Foods is not healthy and contributes to the death of the planet and of course guys will know that right away and not want to date me.

(FTA) “Those who live alone, to be clear, are not lonely and miserable.” Some of us are, actually. But we can’t even talk about that.
posted by Melismata at 12:21 PM on October 24, 2021 [36 favorites]


The article itself is interesting. There’s definitely something about this that resonates with me. I have only once lived with a romantic partner and remember being struck by how many things were logistically easier and less expensive, even though we both were men with pretty demanding jobs. People in the Bay Area joke about staying in relationships because they can’t afford rent on their own — which ceases to become a joke when it means you have to go into debt to separate from your abusive partner, or can’t afford it at all.

I do think talking about, e.g., default recipe sizes being for 4-6 is kind of silly (why would you go through all the trouble of cooking for one and then not have any leftovers?!) compared to things that really limit your life, like the assumption that you have a spouse who will be able to keep things running and look after you if you get sick, or that policy so heavily favors building single-family housing only, or that living expenses are significantly higher.

I do also resent being pitted against couples with children in the workplace. It’s true that couples with children have it really rough in the USA and may need help meeting the frankly insane expectations of our workplaces, AND with affordable childcare and reasonable work weeks for all, single and childless people wouldn’t be put in the position of either having to work overtime to cover for them or being branded as “selfish” for resisting this pressure.

This conflict, btw, strikes me as like so many things in the US, where different groups are pitted against each other in order to deflect from the real problem, which is insufficient investment. One example that comes to mind is transit. Fights over mass transit between people who need transit that is reliable and fast enough to replace driving, people who need transit that has high enough coverage and stops frequently enough to replace walking, and people who need transit to be free because they are unhoused and unemployed but still need to access services (for example), would all be made irrelevant by sufficient investment in transit.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:26 PM on October 24, 2021 [42 favorites]


To be clear I do think there’s an important point about food preparation being really inefficient for one, I just think it’s not related to recipe sizes. I think it’s more that there is a lack of healthy and affordable options for one-person households, and that society has decided to make that a “personal responsibility” problem as opposed to something that we could address.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:34 PM on October 24, 2021 [7 favorites]


And it’s much harder to eat out cheaply with all the buffets still closed, sigh.
posted by Melismata at 12:36 PM on October 24, 2021 [3 favorites]


Another fun thing to mention is that once you get out of college, it's either live alone or have a rotating stable of roommates who will continue to move out and move on. I got tired of trying to find replacements and after awhile, all you get on roommate websites are scammers. And the older you get, the more you're not "supposed" to have roommates unless you are dead broke anyway.

I'm with bunderful: there's just not a lot of people out there to choose from, especially from good dudes.

"I often feel that the world isn't set up for single people and doesn't quite know what to do with us."

Certainly true. Everyone was supposed to pair off like they're going on the ark.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:01 PM on October 24, 2021 [13 favorites]


The article becomes nonsensical when read through the lens of gender - and it SHOULD be read through that lens, because this is a gendered issue.

Almost all women in the world are better off single than coupled up or part of traditional intergenerational living situations. Almost all men in the world are better off coupled up or part of intergenerational living situations than single. That's because, by and large, women give care and men do not.

My own marriage ended partly because I realized my caregiving would never be reciprocated, because my ex was both incapable of and unwilling to provide adequate care to me when I needed it. For example when I had an abortion, he didn't come with me to any appointments or accompany me on the day of the procedure. When I gave birth and had lots of tears/stitches i.e. trouble walking, he got angry when I asked him to bring me food. And so on. Giving care to me was wildly outside his expectations for our marriage - it made him surprised and frustrated every time. But he did quite easily *expect* caregiving when he was sick, though, that fit with his worldview and his training quite well. After trying to change his attitude for 11 years, I decided to cut my losses and leave. Because it WAS a loss for me: I was not capable of stopping myself from providing care when he needed it just because he wouldn't reciprocate. I would have spent myself doing for him everything he would never do for me.

When I left him, he had to split marital assets with me and pay child support. Divorce has been MUCH better for my bottom line than marriage ever was.

I know that's a rare circumstance, but I think some version of this is true for most women in the world, even if they don't get child support or marital assets. It's just better for our bottom line when we aren't working for someone else for free.

In a capitalist patriarchy, THE most beneficial way for women to live is in women-only communities or households. The second-best situation for women to live is alone. Coupling up heterosexually or living with extended family of mixed gender is not just a bad deal for women, it also actively harms us. It's a silly article indeed that pretends otherwise.
posted by MiraK at 2:41 PM on October 24, 2021 [52 favorites]


Have any other countries made it any easier? If so, what worked?

On the medical side, sadly I think our wonderful NHS in the UK is just as blind. I had an unpleasant medical procedure this year and one of the reasons I had it without sedation was because I had nobody to be home with me for the required 24 hours afterwards and it seemed a lot to demand of a friend when everyone's lives were already in various kinds of chaos. In all the paperwork, there was simply no option for what to do if you wanted sedation and didn't have anybody at home - it was just "If you want sedation, you mustn't be alone for 24 hours".

And another single friend and I were just grumbling today about the fact that the trains in Britain offer a "two together" railcard which gives 30% off rail fares for two named people. They have at least gone so far as to not insist you're a romantic couple - two friends could have one, but the two people on the card have to be named (not a different second person each time) and really, how many people have a platonic friend that they travel with frequently enough to justify sharing a railcard? Life is already so much cheaper for couples and you offer them a special railcard just to make it even cheaper? The kind of thing you otherwise only offer to lower-waged people like students and pensioners? Aghhgh.
posted by penguin pie at 2:48 PM on October 24, 2021 [10 favorites]


When I had to have ankle surgery I had to have my manager come pick me up.
When I had my kidney stone, I had to call a former manager.
I get lidocaine for dental procedures because well there just isn't anyone.
Don't get me started on groceries and nothing smaller than 6 or 12.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 2:48 PM on October 24, 2021 [7 favorites]


I'm not arguing that it's an equal exchange, and it's not a shock to me that many women are weighing the pros and cons and opting out as a result, but many of the benefits of being paired up are financial, and men are still paid more generally.

Does anyone know of a country or culture that is way more accommodating to singles than ours? If so, what are the differences you see that make it that way?
posted by Selena777 at 2:50 PM on October 24, 2021 [1 favorite]


Since someone asked upthread, some things that this single person would find helpful:

- change zoning / building codes to support rooming house style accommodations. Not having a kitchen for every unit makes housing a lot cheaper, and having at least some meals provided takes advantage of the efficiency of batch cooking and provides some structure and daily interaction with people. I lived in a tiny apartment with shared stove/oven space and that was mostly fine, too.

- in the same vein, I’m not sure how to get there, but cafeteria style restaurants where one can get basic, healthy food cheaply (or free, but I’m trying to be reasonable). I would get a punch card or subscription. I suspect a lot of folks who don’t live alone would also like the option to not think so much about what and where to eat several times a day and then clean up afterwards.

- communal things more generally: tool libraries, community gardens and orchards, spaces with tools to work on ones car/bike. Again, spreading these things around among more than one household benefits lots of non-single folks as well.

- quit tying things to relationships. My boss refused to let me use sick time to take a friend to a medical appointment he needed a person to take him home from. Likewise subsidized health insurance for spouses but not other important relationships (can we please just have universal healthcare already?) Make it illegal for landlords to discriminate based on whether the people renting are legally related.
posted by momus_window at 3:13 PM on October 24, 2021 [39 favorites]


I mean, a lot of these problems are solved by coupling up as people have done since the literally the dawn of humanity. Living alone is a very, very recent phenomenon and almost exclusively a thing that happens in the richer western countries

Widowhood or widowerhood has also been a thing since literally the dawn of humanity. You're going to say that widows and widowers weren't left alone until recently?

Also, my freezer is always overflowing because I can rarely go through a whole jug of milk, dozen eggs, or loaf of bread before they start to go bad.

Gnashing my teeth at how my new apartment has a SMALLER freezer than the one I left behind...I am going to be spending a good chunk of the winter making increasingly-improvisational things to use up the backlog of stuff I dragged over from the other place.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:20 PM on October 24, 2021 [4 favorites]


- quit tying things to relationships.

This one's so interesting, because it's so intrinsic to our culture as to be almost invisible. I remember the first time I read or had it pointed out to me, that we choose to privilege relationships built on love/sex/romance (or whatever your definition is for what binds a couple), with the opportunity to take the legal (and usually financial) benefits that come with marriage, and that it doesn't have to be that way. It had never occurred to me that it could be otherwise.

There are plenty of friendships in the world that last longer than many marriages and with a more solid bedrock than many marriages. But AFAIK there's no equivalent, simple way to pledge a platonic long-term commitment to a friend or friends that would enable you to have the same rights or connections that marriage gives, unless you're willing to lie and pretend to be in love in order to get married.

It's a topic slightly to the side of this thread, which is about cohabiting - after all, anyone can choose to live with a friend if they have someone suitable in their life and it's preferable to living alone. But it's part of that similar cultural trait of privileging one specific type of relationship as being the one that is solid, and that we should reward people for entering because it's what we build a society around. Divorce statistics and the issues raised by some people in this thread show that - while it might be great for some - it's not the ultimate building block of society that we once took it to be, but we still treat it that way.
posted by penguin pie at 3:33 PM on October 24, 2021 [9 favorites]


- subsidized affordable housing. Which, to be fair, is also needed by families with children and couples without children. But when I was living in Brooklyn, for example - and I had to leave Brooklyn and move to Iowa because I couldn't afford Brooklyn anymore - I spent a couple years living with roommates, got sick of living with roommates, and spent several more years living in apartments where I could barely persuade the landlord to care whether I had bedbugs or adequately hot water. And I never expected to get rich as a librarian, but I didn't expect my salary to fall that far behind a reasonably okay living standard.
posted by Jeanne at 3:35 PM on October 24, 2021 [8 favorites]


communal things more generally

A laundromat, but for dishes!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:38 PM on October 24, 2021 [7 favorites]


Don't get me started on groceries and nothing smaller than 6 or 12.

And, when you do have the option of smaller quantities, the unit pricing goes way up. Real life example from Safeway's website: 12 eggs for $3.49, or 6 eggs for $1.99 (same brand, same size). That's not a huge difference by itself, but carried across months and years of shopping, it adds up.

- change zoning / building codes to support rooming house style accommodations. Not having a kitchen for every unit makes housing a lot cheaper, and having at least some meals provided takes advantage of the efficiency of batch cooking and provides some structure and daily interaction with people.

When I was in college and lived in a dorm, I wanted more independence and moved out as soon as I could. These days, the idea of living in a well-maintained building and having a meal plan sounds glorious.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:05 PM on October 24, 2021 [12 favorites]


>> communal things more generally

> A laundromat, but for dishes!


YES and basically can we all start living in communities built like college campuses and run like communes? Use Ursula Le Guin's The Dispossessed as a manual for living as far as possible. But yeah let's start with community kitchens, creches, laundries.
posted by MiraK at 4:09 PM on October 24, 2021 [21 favorites]


I was a little surprised to discover that multigenerational families with at least one grandparent, parents, and children are also apparently a minority even in Africa and Asia

What I've generally seen is that two generations ago, it was the norm - my grandparents both set up their clan houses as multigenerational homes, you'd know the style if you see it, with small separate living areas for each family. But the generations after that struck a compromise, they wouldn't stay within the immediate home, but they would live as near as possible and have constant contact, multiple times per week, and grandchildren would spend a lot of time there. So these families enjoy the best of both worlds, privacy, but also a very close support network - my retired grandparents would pick me up after school and I'd spend time in their home, for example, which freed up my parents to do other chores.

Then of course, I'm the wayward person who went overseas on their own into a Western country without a support network, and there was apparently a lot of shock-horror back home that I took a bus to the hospital to get surgery under GA, was observed overnight then discharged to get onto a bus back to my apartment where I lived alone. Unthinkable! Lol.

I think cohabiting is generally a great idea. I fucked up many times because I'm generally not the easiest person to live with, but then neither were any of us at that young age, and hopefully they were valuable learning experiences for us in how we handled disagreements and conflict. I spent, maybe, 12 years, cohabiting with a total of 10 different people across 4 different apartments, some guys, some girls, some LGBT, and I would like to think that I've gotten better at not repeating those same mistakes. The act of living considerately with another person is a skill in itself, and I couldn't imagine going into a marriage and having to learn how to do that for the first time.
posted by xdvesper at 4:17 PM on October 24, 2021 [4 favorites]


YES and basically can we all start living in communities built like college campuses and run like communes?
Yes, I love this idea. Except, I want my own kitchen and bathroom still. But it can be a tiny studio! But then have like communal hang out spaces and also a communal kitchen just like college dorms.

I just really wish there were more housing designed for a single person. Apartments, one bedroom or studio, that aren't going to be impossible to afford. Because frankly I'm just tired of living with roommates. Especially because living with roommates makes things feel less stable, since if they decide they want to move out, you have to replace them or move out too, and it's always a roll of the dice.

But I would love to live in a college campus style communal housing thing, where everyone has their own tiny apartment, a bunch of single people all live there, but also there is the option for communal activities and hanging out and also you know that everyone is in the same boat so people would be willing to say, help you get to or from a medical procedure.
posted by litera scripta manet at 4:23 PM on October 24, 2021 [8 favorites]


YES and basically can we all start living in communities built like college campuses and run like communes?

You may be interested in cohousing, which is totally a thing.
posted by bunderful at 4:30 PM on October 24, 2021 [5 favorites]


YES and basically can we all start living in communities built like college campuses and run like communes?

I suppose most people would enjoy this, but this sounds like an absolutely horrific way of life to me.

While thinking of ways to make society more friendly toward "uncoupled" people, please also keep in mind that large amounts of "human interaction" are literally sickening to some.
posted by cinchona at 4:51 PM on October 24, 2021 [24 favorites]


A lot of senior citizen independent living apartments are set up somewhat like colleges, with small individual apartments, shared meals, and communal areas. Unfortunately the ones I've seen have also been awfully paternalistic, not giving people the freedom and privacy they would sometimes like.

I was super excited about cohousing as a concept when I was younger, but at the time in my area,the few available communities were outrageously expensive in comparison to significantly larger local housing stock. But there's no reason it should be!

It seems like there is a market disconnect here, given how many of us are interested in these things.
posted by metasarah at 5:06 PM on October 24, 2021 [2 favorites]


change zoning / building codes to support rooming house style accommodations. Not having a kitchen for every unit makes housing a lot cheaper, and having at least some meals provided takes advantage of the efficiency of batch cooking and provides some structure and daily interaction with people.

I've often thought that if somewhere around here offered Oxbridge-style sets (with dining halls) to live in, with decent food and ideally gorgeous architecture, I'd probably give up on the autonomous life. It is so. much. work. just to keep myself fed and (especially now that I'm home all the time) the apartment clean. Call it the Inns of Court and advertise it to single lawyers. But it's an expensive lifestyle that depends on cheap labor.
posted by praemunire at 6:14 PM on October 24, 2021 [10 favorites]


But it's an expensive lifestyle that depends on cheap labor.

I've often thought about this as well - I enjoyed living in college-style dorms where each person had a tiny bedroom, and had to use common bathrooms, kitchens, living areas, etc. Either with full food service, or you used communal kitchens to cook.

A lot of the costs were offset by people doing the work themselves - which makes a heck of a lot of sense, because then you're not giving 25% to 30% of that to the government in taxes when you pay someone else to do it. So you would have to sign up to X hours of labor per month, which would be spent washing dishes, cleaning common areas, etc. You'd still have an external firm hired to provide some services and supervision of tasks, to avoid arguments about "you didn't clean the toilets properly", but a lot of the labor itself could be insourced to make it cheaper.
posted by xdvesper at 6:37 PM on October 24, 2021


Not having a kitchen for every unit makes housing a lot cheaper,

remarkable how people think first of ingeniously cutting out luxuries, amenities and basic necessities of life for single people, and think last or not at all of simply forcing landlords to lower the rent.

the one is as likely to happen as the other and a much, much better deal for people who aren't actually clamoring to give up all the ordinary privacies, dignities, comforts, privileges, and responsibilities of modern adult life just because we don't have roommates. our problem is not that nobody has yet thought of infantilizing us to this degree. we just need affordable housing and more money. when you have money left over once the rent's paid, you can pay decent rates for laundry service & cleaners & food delivery, if you haven't got time to do all these things yourself or a spouse to do them for you. but if we start out from the position that whatever radical societal restructuring we do, the one thing that must not be touched is the sacred profit of the Landlord, I guess living in a concrete shoebox like college freshmen is the best revolution we can hope for.

the best part is, if we imposed iron rent controls such that we could all afford pleasant 1-bedroom apartments on our single salaries, anybody who actually wanted to rent a closet in a giant house with a shared kitchen and a dozen housemates would still be free to do so.
posted by queenofbithynia at 6:41 PM on October 24, 2021 [60 favorites]


Living alone was particularly brutal during COVID lockdown—“only associate with members of your household.” There was a long time where the only person I spoke to in person was whoever rung up my groceries that week.

Last week I had a friend visiting, and we were sitting at a coffee shop. We’d finished our meal and he just hopped up and bussed our table. No big deal to him, but I was genuinely blown away that a chore got done and I didn’t have to do it. It sounds stupid as hell writing it out now, but at the time I nearly burst into tears with how much not having to take care of absolutely everything all alone meant in that moment.
posted by mollymayhem at 6:55 PM on October 24, 2021 [56 favorites]


and think last or not at all of simply forcing landlords to lower the rent.

Reality is, rent yields are often so low that it's a better deal to rent than to buy your own place.

I can only give you the breakdown of where I live: a suburb in Melbourne, Australia.

Cost to buy the land: $400,000. Cost to build the house: $300,000.

Cost of capital is 4% - as in, the yield forgone - instead of spending $700,000 on the house, say I could buy ETFs and get a 4% return per year. I'm giving $28,000 per year in ETF income in order to buy land and build a house. (Cost of capital is a weighted average across several asset classes, but bear with my 4% example for now).

What can I rent it out for? Roughly $23,000 per year is the going rate. After agent fees, council rates, insurance, maintenance and mandatory safety inspections, you're looking at taking in $20,000. Then assume the $300,000 house has a 40 year lifetime: straight line depreciation means you take off $7,500 per year in reserve to replace the house at the end of 40 years.

So that means you're really taking in just $12,500 per year in pure revenue, against your "cost" of $28,000 per year.

Basically, in most parts of Australia, renters are paying less than what it costs to build up a property of that cost. The whole thing is a deferred tax scheme where landlords are willing to suffer losses every year renting out property at below cost, in the hope that in 40 years time the land will appreciate in value enough that they can sell it for 5x of what they bought it for and retire rich.

I'd characterize it as landlords taking a risk which may or may not pay off, while renters get to live in the house at far below cost in the meantime.

So where can we take cost out of the system? Are building companies ripping people off - does it really cost $300,000 to build a house? Perhaps someone like Elon Musk will come in and see there's some HUGE inefficiency in the way we build houses, and that his company can do it for $100,000 or something. But I think that's exceedingly unlikely.

What about the cost of the land? Is $400,000 for a plot of land excessive? Could the government step in and say, no, this land can only be sold for $100,000 now?
posted by xdvesper at 7:13 PM on October 24, 2021 [6 favorites]


When I, a single person, had a wisdom tooth extracted, I had to pay a medical escort to take me home while I was woozy. She was very nice and charged reasonably, but she was a little surprised to hear from me; apparently she mostly deals with the elderly. That made me feel like six pounds of loser in a five-pound bag.

For many years, I have asked myself things like "why don't I have the exact success that so-and-so had when I made the same choices," and I've come to realize that a lot of it has to do with not having a wife. It's no excuse, but it helps me understand why, in part, I couldn't do what I felt I should and spent years resenting myself for it.

In my more bitter moments I feel like I was set up to fail - went to college, figured out how to live on my own, found a career, learned to expect more from men .. and the more I expect, the less likely I am to get anything at all. It's not that I would want to trade places with most of the married women I know. But I'm wired for love and connection, and the world I live in isn't set up for me to have that - not if I want to feel safe and respected at the same time.


I hear you, and I feel the same way. It happens that yesterday I finished a quick, short comic novel from the '70s called Sheila Levine Is Dead and Living in New York, one of those books that made a splash at the time, got an unrecognizable movie, and was promptly forgotten. It's in the voice of a woman who finds the single life so unbearable that she decides to die by suicide. The fact that people found this premise funny (which, to be fair, the book is) shows how seriously women's problems were taken at the time. As dated as it is, it's one of the few things I've read that honestly deals with the problems of being a person unwanted by an unjust world, a state that is very real, instead of suggesting it's a problem of attitude or impatience or not being skinny enough.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:52 PM on October 24, 2021 [15 favorites]



Widowhood or widowerhood has also been a thing since literally the dawn of humanity. You're going to say that widows and widowers weren't left alone until recently?


In Tudor England, widows or widowers frequently remarried because it was really very hard for them to live on their own. Women needed the income; men needed the housekeeping. Just making food took so much more work, let alone cleaning and laundry.
posted by jb at 9:01 PM on October 24, 2021 [7 favorites]


Also, the men often didn't have the skills to keep house for themselves, even if they had time. Women couldn't make good wages to support themselves.
posted by jb at 9:02 PM on October 24, 2021 [1 favorite]


to live in, with decent food and ideally gorgeous architecture

A nice hotel? Do people still live en pensione?
posted by clew at 9:09 PM on October 24, 2021


at the time I nearly burst into tears with how much not having to take care of absolutely everything all alone meant in that moment.

I'll be honest, for me probably the worst thing about living alone is that there's nobody else to make tea, and nobody else to make tea for. It's just me. Almost all the time.
posted by BungaDunga at 9:22 PM on October 24, 2021 [16 favorites]


When I had to have (twilight) sedation for a procedure in Japan and I was alone, they left me in a bed (in a shared room) to sleep it off for a few hours until I was ready. My previous experience with sedation in the US was being kicked out essentially immediately. I was lucky enough to have my housemate give me a ride, but just those few hours I got in Japan to feel like a semi-normal human again was so much better.

I wonder if most places in the US have zoning restrictions that prevent the small-but-livable apartment buildings with ~300sqft studio-ish units. A small space meant I didn't have as much to clean, which was also good. I can imagine if I had been in that place during COVID I would have felt incredibly cooped up and cabin-fever-y, though.
posted by that girl at 9:31 PM on October 24, 2021 [1 favorite]


> you take off $7,500 per year in reserve to replace the house at the end of 40 years.


No, you don't. Nothing about deciding to rent a house out today says you must do that again in 40 years. (Not to mention that a house which falls over after 40 years would be unforgiveable crap - plenty of Melbourne is living in houses pushing 100!)

And you also forgot that both forms of income will be taxed at your marginal rate, say 37%, but your rental income allows you to first deduct depreciation and spending, and now it looks like your net income from each scenario is around $15.5k as a landlord and $17.5k as a stockholder. They're paying $2k/year so that in 40 years time they have an asset worth somewhere between $400k and $1million, and the renter is paying $23k/year so that in 40 years time they have nothing.

And of course, you totally ignored the option of putting $200k into ETFs and borrowing $200k to build the house, at the lowest interest rate you can get for a loan and then deducting the cost of interest from your taxes as well.

Renters aren't being subsidized by landlords in any way. That's a fundamental misunderstanding of Australian property. Landlords are being subsidized by everyone else in order to speculate on the continued existence of people willing to pay them money in order to keep a roof over their heads.
posted by bashing rocks together at 9:56 PM on October 24, 2021 [27 favorites]


oh for the reasonably priced “serviced flats/apartments” of the days of yore (1940s movies)! yes, please.
posted by mollymillions at 10:18 PM on October 24, 2021 [3 favorites]


I really intensely like living alone, but wrenching my knee badly during the lockdown did bring to the forefront the question of what happens if I become infirm. I managed well enough with hopping and a cane, but it was unpleasant foreshadowing. And there's even more grimly, the problem of what happens if you drop dead, or suffer an incapacitating stroke. I work from home, and in a fairly independent way and I genuinely do not know how many days it would take before they realized something was really wrong; I have a couple of weekly get-togethers with friends, but again I'm not sure that not turning up without notice would register as a reason to come round my house and check.
posted by tavella at 10:32 PM on October 24, 2021 [5 favorites]


Historically, it just really wasn't practical to run a single household. Without labour saving devices laundry and cooking even for just one person could easily take up most of a day. It's why serviced apartments and lodgings made sense. They created economies of scale. But nowadays that's much less the case and those serviced apartments and lodgings were not actually cheap - they would take up a good proportion of people's income (but there were no credit checks).

I'm coupled up now, and benefitting enormously from my husband doing virtually all the household labour. But before that I spent over a decade living alone. I enjoyed the company, but especially after a few years, I would mostly eat sandwiches for dinner (pre-made), or pick up a tiny pizza or chicken and chips on my way home. I'm a perfectly good cook, but cannot be bothered to go to that effort for just one person particularly when working full time. Having to always do every single thing myself meant that some things just didn't get done. It definitely cost more money to live alone.

I do not expect to find another long-term relationship if this one falls apart or my husband dies before me. I've got views on how I'm would live. I need a flat with a balcony but no garden because it's too much effort. I will live off ready meals and frozen veg and get my groceries delivered. Essentially I will compromise on what I would really like to be more realistic about what I can manage by myself. My own apartment, but catered meals available would be lovely. But I don't want other random restrictions.
posted by plonkee at 1:49 AM on October 25, 2021 [2 favorites]


a lot of these problems are solved by coupling up

Boy, why didn't I think of that?!
posted by escape from the potato planet at 4:02 AM on October 25, 2021 [28 favorites]


Serviced apartments or college dorms/dining halls run on the underpaid labor of housekeepers and cooks, so you're just trading one problem (the invisibility of single people) for another (the invisibility of staff).

Honestly, the more I think about this, the more I think the underlying issue isn't single vs coupled. It's that 21st century upper-middle-class American society (I can't speak for others) assumes that spouses will fulfill each other's every need. From companionship to caregiving to chores. Financially and otherwise, married relationships are prioritized, followed by live-in-partnerships; everyone else is shunted to the back of the bus.

I was recently looking semi-idly at job postings, and one company's benefits included the option to add a parent or sibling as your "plus-one" on your health insurance. That was mind-blowing. To the company it's really no different than adding a spouse, but it was a really really strong signal that this was a place that thought about the needs of single people who might have caregiving responsibilities beyond the postwar "husband-wife-and-2.5-kids" nuclear family. I didn't apply for a bunch of other reasons, but I am definitely keeping them on my radar.
posted by basalganglia at 4:28 AM on October 25, 2021 [17 favorites]


Does anyone know of a country or culture that is way more accommodating to singles than ours? If so, what are the differences you see that make it that way?
Sweden is very accomodating to singles, to the point where many seniors divorce and live alone. No idea how to get there from US-here though. They have:
- municipality-owned apartment housing as almost a default
- many 200-300sqft apartments for OK prices
- subsidized personal support worker services
- expensive groceries therefore small package sizes
- good public transit

And many more. It's to the point where combined with electronic pension and bill payments, you can die in your apartment and not be found for years. If that's how you want to live.
posted by anthill at 6:46 AM on October 25, 2021 [5 favorites]


Serviced apartments or college dorms/dining halls run on the underpaid labor of housekeepers and cooks, so you're just trading one problem (the invisibility of single people) for another (the invisibility of staff).

Presumably it is not a mandatory law of the universe that all staffs must be underpaid and invisible? We're pipe dreaming about a society that gives a fuck about anyone (because let's be real, society doesn't care if uncoupled people die in the gutter--and it only cares a tiny tiny bit more if someone with a family does, too). Why not pipe dream about people getting decent, well-paid jobs out of the deal?

(I'm just extra salty because my partner and I once again debated the living-together question yesterday and the fact is, despite the thousands of dollars it would save us every year, it's still a bad idea. Combined we're spending almost 3000 a month on rent and utilities. If I moved in with him? It would be more like 1900. But we want to continue liking each other so we cough up that 3 grand. Fuck this.)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 7:51 AM on October 25, 2021 [16 favorites]


YES and basically can we all start living in communities built like college campuses and run like communes?!

Developers are trying to build apartments where each room is individually rentable (college style) with a shared kitchen and cleaning staff for the shared rooms, but most communities that are not college-adjacent reject them.

UHT (and various nutmilks) have longer shelf lives than regular 2% milk.

Roughly $23,000 per year is the going rate.

For a $700k property, that would be very low in the US. That's the equivalent rent of a $300k place. Also who would build a house that only cost $300k on $400k land? That's a terrible idea. Your hard costs should exceed your land costs, which means your property tax or zoning is seriously messed up if people are doing that.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:15 AM on October 25, 2021


In Tudor England, widows or widowers frequently remarried because it was really very hard for them to live on their own. Women needed the income; men needed the housekeeping. Just making food took so much more work, let alone cleaning and laundry.

This covers only 150 years in one country in the world, and I'm sure that even here there were widows or widowers who were left out because there just plain weren't any other men or women around TO marry.

The single have always been with us, I promise. The world has just covered us over.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:20 AM on October 25, 2021 [4 favorites]


Also who would build a house that only cost $300k on $400k land? That's a terrible idea. Your hard costs should exceed your land costs, which means your property tax or zoning is seriously messed up if people are doing that.

My current house is valued at $1.4 million, of which $350-400K is the insurance value of the house itself. The rest is land value. If I rented it (3bdr, 2ba) I'd get about $3500/mo for the whole house in this neighborhood.

My house in Chicago sold for $900K, with the insurance value of the house itself being $350-400K, the rest being land value.
posted by aramaic at 8:36 AM on October 25, 2021


most communities that are not college-adjacent reject them

Do you have any more detailed information on why?
posted by Selena777 at 8:57 AM on October 25, 2021


YES and basically can we all start living in communities built like college campuses and run like communes?!


Retirement communities? I think most are currently geared more towards the 50-55+ population and as a stepping stone into assisted living but they are out there. A lot of variation in set up from my research into ones local to me compared to ones local to other family members.

I was recently looking semi-idly at job postings, and one company's benefits included the option to add a parent or sibling as your "plus-one" on your health insurance. That was mind-blowing. To the company it's really no different than adding a spouse,

OMG yes! I've been wondering about this lately and think the financials may not make it worthwhile from the employer's perspective as 2 aging parents are likely to have higher medical costs (which then drives the employer's costs) even if the parents had to transition off once eligible for Medicare. Which then led me to wish the USA was working harder toward insurance that wasn't tied to employment even if Medicaid for all/over 50 is not currently achievable.
posted by beaning at 8:59 AM on October 25, 2021


Presumably it is not a mandatory law of the universe that all staffs must be underpaid and invisible? We're pipe dreaming about a society that gives a fuck about anyone (because let's be real, society doesn't care if uncoupled people die in the gutter--and it only cares a tiny tiny bit more if someone with a family does, too). Why not pipe dream about people getting decent, well-paid jobs out of the deal?

I like this pipe dream and share it. But in the US specifically (as well as in many, but not all, other places), employment in child care, senior care, and similar work is incredibly low paid, despite the equally incredibly high costs of those services. I suspect the solution is public subsidies, not simply raising wages and passing the costs on directly; given that this is an almost impossible ask here for something as essential as child care, I am doubtful of the potential for doing this for grownup dorms.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:05 AM on October 25, 2021 [3 favorites]


I guess living in a concrete shoebox like college freshmen is the best revolution we can hope for.

You're not going to find me caping for landlords at any time, and I have huge reservations about any shift SRO-ward (the problem is not that the housing isn't tiny enough!), but, if you've ever lived at the particular kind of expensive school where everyone lives on campus and eats in the dining hall all four years and everything is beautiful and (by local standards) old, it is by no means an inherently miserable way of life. Many dons in the UK used to live in and the residential oversight positions for grownups at Harvard/Yale/etc. are pretty competitive to get. (Obviously, as I said, a very privileged position, but if you put enough resources in, it can be comfortable for at least some kinds of people.)
posted by praemunire at 9:08 AM on October 25, 2021 [6 favorites]


I think it's only going to get harder! Here in Canada housing is so much more expensive than even 2 years ago (overall house prices have jumped 27% during the pandemic) and the average for ALL housing in my city (Toronto) is well over $1 Million Canadian. Even with interest rates at record lows, it's extremely difficult for a single person to afford to buy real estate, even if they make well over the average salary; even one bedroom condos are going for over $500k. It's a similar situation for rents, a brief respite in rising rent prices during the pandemic has now reversed and now it's again very difficult for a single person to rent in the city unless they can make some real compromises in terms of location or amenities. Also, with everyone working from home during the pandemic, areas that previously were more reasonable to rent or buy in are now being pulled up to the average. I can only imagine that the situation will get much worse before it gets better!
posted by sid at 9:13 AM on October 25, 2021 [2 favorites]


My current house is valued at $1.4 million, of which $350-400K is the insurance value of the house itself. The rest is land value. If I rented it (3bdr, 2ba) I'd get about $3500/mo for the whole house in this neighborhood.


But that is not a new-construction price, no-one would tear down your home and build a $400k home on $1m of land value. That you don't is yet another sign your zoning being seriously messed up.


Also, my home is valued at $400k in total and my neighbor rents for $3250, which is cost + rent margin. Is your home in California or the NE of the US? I think your rental rates are way low or your value has increased so dramatically so quickly that long-term rates are lower in nearby properties. Rental rate imbalances don't kick in until values are in the $2m range (as the number of people who purchase vs rent dramatically decreases and lead to price/rent imbalances and rent-seeking vs long-term holding psychology changes.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:43 AM on October 25, 2021


In short, anyone saying that most people are renting for below market value purchase value in most markets in the world are incorrect. In general in the US, due to credit and down payment requirements, most renters are paying more in rent than the equivalent mortgage payment, not less.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:45 AM on October 25, 2021 [8 favorites]


> Sweden is very accomodating to singles, to the point where many seniors divorce and live alone. ...

> It's to the point where combined with electronic pension and bill payments, you can die in your apartment and not be found for years. If that's how you want to live.


The gulf between the first bit quoted and the last bit is immense and hard to make sense of, for me. Divorcing and living alone is not the same as a choice to completely disconnect from the human aspect of society! That's the very issue this article is talking about, that we seem to have no concept of togetherness and connectedness except when it takes the form of marriage.

I'm divorced and I will soon live entirely alone (instead of part-time alone rn - shared custody of rapidly growing children). But I do invest time and energy in cultivating community: primarily a local social circle, secondarily my far-flung family/friends, and a tertiary investment in building connections with neighbors & volunteering locally. I daresay I was far more disconnected from my community while I was married - couplehood wraps us up in a cocoon, it makes us rely mostly on the one other person we cohabit with, because if that person is reliable, that tends to be security enough. Single people and others who live precariously (e.g. poor, disabled, queer, outcaste, etc) have more opportunities for awareness of the necessity of connection, & more incentive to work on connecting.

... But come to think of it, a lot of people I know here in north-east USA are not merely single, they want to be far away from people and community and society, no neighbors for miles, that sort of thing. Many of them say it's because they're introverts, but it's more like misanthropy imo? Or perhaps social anxiety - either way, IDK, it just doesn't seem healthy to me. Being an introvert doesn't demand that a person be in denial about the reality of interdependence in human life pretending like we're capable of surviving without other people, nor does introversion let us off the hook for what we owe to other people in our communities.

The people I know would probably be scandalized to hear me say so but I think it's very much a capitalistic mindset they have: they do rely on other people for survival (all of them want internet access, for instance, and healthcare and legal services when needed, etc) but their dream is to never have to interact with humans in order to procure any of these necessary services. Their dream is to reduce all those other people they rely upon down to dollars and button-clicks. Sure they all want a couple of good friends, some even want spouses and children, but they wish all the other people they're forced to rely upon for survival would please just pretend they were token-operated bots. Relating to their wider community on a human level is the thing they object to. This is capitalism through and through.

But I suppose that's off topic, a rant for another day.
posted by MiraK at 9:59 AM on October 25, 2021 [8 favorites]


I suspect the solution is public subsidies, not simply raising wages and passing the costs on directly; given that this is an almost impossible ask here for something as essential as child care, I am doubtful of the potential for doing this for grownup dorms.

But all I'm saying is the grownup dorms are ALSO an impossible ask, so why not ask for three impossible things before breakfast.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:00 AM on October 25, 2021 [8 favorites]


Re-introducing the societal take on this -

One year my brother was getting me a cookbook catering to "cooking for one" as a gift, and he later told me that when he went to the cashier to pay for it, she looked at the title and then said "oh no!" and gave him a pitying look. We both thought that was silly - him especially, because he's married.

But he also had looked at some of the recipes and discovered what I already knew - y'all, some of those "cooking for one" cookbooks are the bomb. A lot of the authors are food writers who found themselves newly-single after a spouse died or divorced them, and they found themselves having to navigate the whole grocery-stores-catering-to-multiples issue or the endless-leftovers-for-days issue, and have come up with strategies to cope. And one I recently got is from America's Test Kitchen, where they also tested some shortcuts and add-ons for their various recipes, and also bears in mind the "we're exhausted after work" issue as well, and people, this cookbook rocks. Like, I have caught my roommate eyeballing stuff I've made from it as he heats up a leftover burrito or whatever and I can see him questioning his choices.

But that cashier's attitude is more common, and that sadly may be dissuading people from putting in this kind of effort to treat themselves well and that's sad.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:00 AM on October 25, 2021 [17 favorites]


Do you have any more detailed information on why?

NIMBY bullshit, generally.
posted by bashing rocks together at 12:29 PM on October 25, 2021


Do you have any more detailed information on why?

NIMBY bullshit, generally.


Or maybe some of us just don't want to share a home kitchen with a bunch of strangers! Have you ever dealt with an office breakroom kitchen? The smells, the rotting food in the fridge, the unwashed dishes in the sink, the trash, the wacky non-recyclables clogging up the recycling bin? Now imagine it's your home. And it will probably stink up your entire hallway with microwave popcorn smells. And don't even think about going in late at night to make a cup of tea in your underwear.

I truly don't blame anyone who does not want to live this way, if they have any alternative at all. In a perfect world, a shared kitchen would save a lot of headaches and costs for individual renters. But in a real world, there will be people with wildly different styles of cleaning and cooking (and of possibly forgetting to turn off the oven, or set your coffee creamer out and forget to put it back in the fridge, or etc. etc.)
posted by knotty knots at 1:17 PM on October 25, 2021 [14 favorites]


knotty knots, I think you're misunderstanding what the comments you replied to are saying?

Or are you saying that the hypothetical residents of these buildings are also the ones who don't want them built? Generally, the reason that high-density developments are pushed back on is, indeed, due to NIMBY bullshit.

If you wouldn't like living in shared accommodations, that's fine, but it also has nothing to do with why the accommodations aren't built.
posted by sagc at 1:24 PM on October 25, 2021 [3 favorites]


Yes, I am saying that the hypothetical residents of these buildings are also the ones who don't want them built. A few affordable housing proposals have come across my feed for educators and nurses in my town, and if they are set up like dorms this way, I do push back. Other educators and nurses in the targeted group do, too.

We work too hard to spend this much rent on a place where we still have to deal with the kitchen bullshit of our peers, even at home. If it were truly affordable, even discount housing, maybe. But $900+ per month per person and you don't even get a kitchen(ette) of your own? F that. I'm writing to city council about it.
posted by knotty knots at 1:32 PM on October 25, 2021 [6 favorites]


Knotty Knots, I can understand your not wanting that option yourself, and wanting an affordable private residence for your own self. Hell, I'm with you on not wanting to share my kitchen.

But I admit I'm raising an eyebrow at your claim that you are not only saying "no" to it for yourself, but that you are additionally working to remove it as an option for other people. Why can't this be a "both/and" situation?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:52 PM on October 25, 2021 [3 favorites]


Why can't this be a "both/and" situation?

If I'm reading it correctly it's because ultimately only one thing can be built per proposal. If the thing that is built will be expensive shared-kitchen housing, that means there continues to be a lack of anything else. If you have a severe lack of one-bedroom or full-studio apartments in your neighborhood and your goal, as a person invested in the development of your neighborhood, is to remedy that, then a Grownup Dorm Proposal actually doesn't move you toward your goal.

If a critical mass of people disagree with knotty knots and actually DO want the housing, then no doubt it will go through in the end.

It is definitely a fine line between genuinely feeling like a proposal doesn't meet your community's needs and "NIMBY bullshit" but I feel like "The teachers and nurses and other working-class residents in my neighborhood deserve private bathrooms and a fucking refrigerator" is not on the bad side of that line.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 2:03 PM on October 25, 2021 [10 favorites]


Like I am imagining telling my CNA friend that she can have a 200 sq ft room and share a microwave with 65 randos for the low low price of $900 a month and also imagining just how far into the stratosphere she would punt my skull.

it's far.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 2:04 PM on October 25, 2021 [6 favorites]


knotty knots has a good point, and I remember learning about this in architecture school (planning classes) back in the early -80's: don't plan apartments or houses that can be rented out by the room, because it will lead to speculative construction that in time will become slums. Planners need to look ahead. Of course now, this is happening all over the place, and one among several reasons is airbnb. My teachers back then talked a lot about how architects and planners shouldn't try to create technical solutions to problems that capitalism had created for itself, but instead work politically to limit the reach of capitalists. Those were the days.
I think we need a lot of housing experiments at this point, in order to figure out what types of accommodation works for changing demographics. It probably varies a lot, depending on place, age and income, and we should provide lots of options.

Regarding the various services people may or may not need vs. living wages, the answer is definitely government assistance, and it should be uncontroversial. I know it will be controversial in the US, but here it isn't at all. Society needs healthy and happy citizens and if they need help, they should get it. We, as a society, can afford it. That said, we have the racism and other issues here too, and getting the help you need and are entitled to IRL can be difficult.

Finally, I strongly believe that everyone needs to learn a lot more in school about household management and as part of that, feeding one self. It has to be un-gendered and instead connected to economy, health and sustainability. There is a huge learning-perspective in enlarging the curriculum of home economy, for kids like my youngest, who is very book-learning averse, a kitchen would have been a very good place to learn about math, biology, reading and society, because there it all makes sense. And knife skills, too.

The last couple of days our meals have been really delicious, in very different ways. And they have been dirt-cheap. Some can easily work in a single-household setting, some can't, and we talk about that.
posted by mumimor at 2:17 PM on October 25, 2021 [3 favorites]


Btw, for anyone who knows someone in this life phase, CNAs can actually be hired from Care.com for a day or afternoon for really affordable rates.

Not to go into fine details, but over the last decade and a half or so, I've had to do this twice for medical procedures. (Not through care.com.) Last time it cost me about $350. Both times the person the agency sent around was very nice, I can swing the cost, but there are many others who couldn't.

I've turned down less urgent procedures just on principle--I've literally told a doctor "I'll sign up for this thing that includes twilight anesthesia if you let me take an Uber home". No deal. I'm still being obstinate about it.
posted by gimonca at 2:37 PM on October 25, 2021


Also, shopping single at Costco is great for a laugh. And Aldi, too.
posted by gimonca at 2:37 PM on October 25, 2021 [2 favorites]


But I admit I'm raising an eyebrow at your claim that you are not only saying "no" to it for yourself, but that you are additionally working to remove it as an option for other people. Why can't this be a "both/and" situation?

The ones I’m most familiar with are the ones being built in Dublin. These are relatively expensive (even for Dublin rents) and are aimed at young and/or transient workers at Facebook/Google/etc. (To the point where at least one developer was trying to argue that they didn’t need that much kitchen space as they’d all be eating at the company canteens.)

Theoretically, they may open up other types of accommodation, and ease the overall situation a little. However, as mentioned above they are fairly expensive, so they may not have that much of an effect on lowering rents. (If you can charge €1300 per month for an en-suite bedroom of less than 200 sq ft. with at most a tiny kitchenette, why wouldn’t you expect significantly more for a 1 bed apartment?)

(NIMBYism does play its part too, but there’s also a lot of cultural memory going on too - Irish people tend to have a large distrust of landlords, and Dublin had a lot of slum-like tenements, and these type of developments set alarm bells ringing on both counts.)
posted by scorbet at 2:46 PM on October 25, 2021 [5 favorites]


I am imagining telling my CNA friend that she can have a 200 sq ft room and share a microwave with 65 randos for the low low price of $900 a month and also imagining just how far into the stratosphere she would punt my skull.

I am imagining how many New Yorkers would jump on this. Genuinely affordable SRO's serve a purpose, and New York made them illegal for paternalistic and NIMBY reasons. (If you want to argue about whether a $900 SRO room is affordable, I invite you to look for an apartment in NYC that costs less than $1500/month. And those are scarce.)
posted by Mavri at 2:48 PM on October 25, 2021 [2 favorites]


NYC in the last few years (mostly pre pandemic) a small boom in co-living arrangements (basically dormitories) pitched at younger adults. The 92nd street Y still exists and still has dorms though they're not affordable by any stretch.

$900/mo would get you a room in a death trap illegal apartment.
posted by BungaDunga at 3:01 PM on October 25, 2021 [3 favorites]


knotty knots has a good point, and I remember learning about this in architecture school (planning classes) back in the early -80's: don't plan apartments or houses that can be rented out by the room, because it will lead to speculative construction that in time will become slums

I was under the impression that this is what happened to SROs instead of paternalism, unless the voices of people who enjoyed living there were drowned out by another historical narrative.
posted by Selena777 at 3:34 PM on October 25, 2021


Sigh I really wish Metafilter had some kind of plugin that was like, "automatically translate all hypothetical rents into their NYC equivalent" lol.

900 a month in my city isn't a slam-dunk deal; plenty of fully-private housing options can be had here for that amount. Minimally shared (e.g., two roommates in a 2 or 3 bedroom) can be had for significantly less.

Which isn't to say that we don't need MORE spaces suited to a single person, because we do. Only many of us feel:
-it both can and should be addressed by building affordable fully-private residences
-the dorm-style housing being proposed is not affordable enough to address the needs of the population that is truly priced out of private housing arrangements

Cheaper dorm-style rents would change that equation but since they're being marketed to tech folks and 20-somethings who are drawing from the Bank of Mom and Dad...
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 3:48 PM on October 25, 2021 [2 favorites]


What the fuck. I don't want to live in a six-bedroom mansion, can I burn them all down now that we're officially in One Size Of Housing To Fit All?

If a critical mass of people disagree with knotty knots and actually DO want the housing, then no doubt it will go through in the end.

Actually, no, because the hypothetical residents who very much wanted them built, whatever knotty thinks about their ability to represent the whole world, are the ones who currently can't afford to live in the area, so they don't vote for the council. They're also not rich and/or retired people who can just spend the afternoon dropping by council office hours and start up a PAC on a whim and fuck up the entire fucking city for everyone else for decades because oh my god where are those people living in studios built above a light rail station going to park their cars. (Not to mention that some of them will occasionally say out loud that renters are poor transients who will ruin the neighborhood.)

ANYWAY, what actually happened is that shitty people across Seattle got laws updated bit by bit and made it illegal to build anything like that, using the (mostly disingenuous) reasoning that nobody should have to live like that. And now, just a few years later, many of the exact same garbage people are complaining that homeless people are everywhere, of course they can't all afford a nice one bedroom apartment, not everybody can have nice things, can't we house them in a convenient empty warehouse, or giant FEMA tent, or heavily guarded made-to-order "village" a couple hours away, maybe on an island with no bridge to the mainland*? Because not only did those microstudios not get built, the people saying "why not build family size apartments?!?!" were lying and protested equally hard against any proposal to do that. So sure, maybe if by 'in the end' you meant "20 years later after literally hundreds of people have frozen to death living on the streets of the city". God forbid if some of us would like common sense today instead of waiting for another entire generation to die first.

knotty knots has a good point, and I remember learning about this in architecture school (planning classes) back in the early -80's: don't plan apartments or houses that can be rented out by the room, because it will lead to speculative construction that in time will become slums.
Saying "don't build single-room rentals" is a perfect example of trying to solve a social problem with a technical response. If only nice expensive housing is built then everyone will live in nice expensive housing, right? Yay! Oops no the poor people will still live in your city, but they will live in the park and on the sidewalk and under the freeway.

*Every one of these proposals has been made by at least one candidate running for the local council - and not laughed at.
posted by bashing rocks together at 4:27 PM on October 25, 2021 [17 favorites]


Those of us singulars who don't want to live in a goddamn dorm with actual skin in the game get told we're NIMBYs all the time by people living in houses and nice apartments with their partners and their nice tech jobs and stable employment and retirement funds to the point where it starts to sound like the hashtag vanlife "I upgraded this van and travel around the country working remotely, why are you so old fashioned about wanting to be housed?!" nonsense.

If you kinda theoretically want to live in a dorm but don't economically fear being forced to eventually then buy a house and get some roommates. Meanwhile the rest of us will push back against the reduction of expected standards of living because that reduction (lol single poors are too busy to cook right?) actually affects what is available and normalized for us later on.

Building affordable homes with bathrooms and kitchens at a minimum should be possible in Seattle ffs, but instead we're losing the game before we even try and it lowers the states of living for everyone below house-level down the line (I have seen this happen already in my 38 years of living here! It is not a good thing! I make less than 40k a year i promise I am not a NIMBY!)
posted by Grim Fridge at 4:57 PM on October 25, 2021 [16 favorites]


Like yes the neolibs in this city are bloody liars and they actually just want us poors and our unhoused neighbors dead or gone. But that doesn't mean we are just pawns for the not as evil plans. We have basically the same desires for privacy and gardens and midnight cookies as "normal" (read: unbelievably rich) people do. We should fight for lifting everyone's boats, not just the bare crappy minimum.
posted by Grim Fridge at 5:07 PM on October 25, 2021 [5 favorites]


Those of us singulars who don't want to live in a goddamn dorm with actual skin in the game get told we're NIMBYs all the time

Nah, only the ones who fight against building places for other people to live in. I mean, perhaps it's unfair that "Not Anywhere Ever" gets collapsed with "Not in My Back Yard", but since the effect on the attempt to build is the same, it doesn't seem important.

If you kinda theoretically want to live in a dorm but don't economically fear being forced to eventually then buy a house and get some roommates.

So......move out of the city? Yes, people who want to live in dense residential areas should definitely be driven out to however far past the suburbs they need to go to just buy a house. It's exactly the same lifestyle. We need that precious space in the center of the city for some nice literal private backyards. Seriously?
posted by bashing rocks together at 5:46 PM on October 25, 2021 [4 favorites]


While there's a genuine need for affordable SROs, it's disingenuous AF to pretend that single-room rentals and microsuites won't largely serve as transitional housing. Like, regardless of price point. This screws over a whole bunch of people, because it forces everyone involved to play dumb about what the hell people can transition to. Here's what's at stake when we pull this nonsense:

It makes it difficult to have a realistic conversation about the need for supportive housing, be it private or shared, transitional or long-term. Affordable rents alone are not always enough to get people with housing insecurity to a safe place, and when you start taking support services out of the equation you can't make good decisions about where and how to make social inclusion a reality for more people.

One also has to sidestep the matter of the sorts of housing stock that adult dorm-dwellers would hope to move to next. If you don't build affordable private accommodations in a community that happens to have modest SROs, you're basically telling poor people that they don't deserve to stay in their communities and raise their standard of living. You also still haven't addressed the lack of suitable housing stock for the middle-income higher-end microsuite renters looking to move to solo-suited private housing.

Note that you still have a transient problem. No, not in the nasty NIMBY way, but now you have a community with a lack of intermediate housing options. You risk longevity and community building, which gets back to what's really at stake for solo-dwellers' well-being and domestic labour challenges. Dorm life can address some of that for some people under ideal circumstances, but why close the doors on single-friendly cohousing? That's a social problem that does, to some degree, have a technical solution. The social component of that solution, though, requires believing that an end game that places modest private housing within reach of more people isn't bougie claptrap.
posted by blerghamot at 5:59 PM on October 25, 2021 [7 favorites]


It's interesting that, PNW microcosm and hyper local seeming derail aside, even the most basic of life necessities like "housing" or "preparing food" are confusing, difficult to socially plan access to and overall contentious when it comes to single person households. Like, it's a given that we are economically less able than multi person households (as we go up the age scale, it's even more so), and that's the driving force behind trying to figure out what the hell to do with us socially. Just... Even the basic necessities seem to look different than for partnered or otherwise multiple households. No wonder it's so hard! We don't even have the simplest social models we can agree on re:how to live in this way. I'm seen to deserve less privacy because there's one of me! That's actually really interesting sociologically.

(I blame capitalism, ymmv)
posted by Grim Fridge at 6:07 PM on October 25, 2021 [3 favorites]


I do find this discussion of housing interesting, but I am back to say that I was just informed it’s Ace (Asexual) Week. With my food allergies, I’m going to have to bake my own cake in order to partake in the meme of my people (which is cake). Figures.
posted by Comet Bug at 7:20 PM on October 25, 2021 [5 favorites]


blerghamot, what does "transitional housing" mean there? Housing no-one wants to live in long term? Housing no-one can live in long term? …?
posted by clew at 7:55 PM on October 25, 2021 [1 favorite]


The few newish single-room rentals with communal shared space I know of in my city are prohibitively expensive. It would be one thing if they were priced in a way that acknowledges the tradeoffs from renting a full apartment, but instead the rent is per person so there's no way to spilt the costs with a roommate or partner. I don't know of any that I'd actually consider affordable on a tight budget - they seem to be intended for wealthy college students who want out of the dorms, which... is that a market? I have no idea but someone seems to think it is.
posted by augustimagination at 8:33 PM on October 25, 2021 [3 favorites]


Daddy’s/Mommy’s money is definitely a market. But young professionals who value personal space and make enough money to live in the city are a market, too, which is why I wonder if this model isn’t available for them or isn’t desirable to them.
posted by Selena777 at 8:57 PM on October 25, 2021


Honestly? Young folks on mommy and daddy’s money are close enough to college that they remember how much it fucking sucks when you’re trying to brush your teeth for bed while a drunk stranger pukes 3 feet away from you. No wonder they aren’t rushing to continue that lifestyle.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:56 PM on October 25, 2021 [3 favorites]


If I'm reading it correctly it's because ultimately only one thing can be built per proposal. If the thing that is built will be expensive shared-kitchen housing, that means there continues to be a lack of anything else. If you have a severe lack of one-bedroom or full-studio apartments in your neighborhood and your goal, as a person invested in the development of your neighborhood, is to remedy that, then a Grownup Dorm Proposal actually doesn't move you toward your goal.

It strikes me, then, that the problem is not "NIMBY"-ism, but that the housing council in a given community is itself only allowing for one kind of option, and perhaps ought to be pressured to allow for both kinds instead of shutting anyone out of their preference.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:50 AM on October 26, 2021


Have any other countries made it any easier? If so, what worked?

For elderly people who are alone in Ontario the Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) is pretty incredible. They coordinate for almost everything that is needed and they make extreme dispensations for people who lack support like emergency priority for access to managed care facilities when the time comes. It makes me very desperately want to move back from the U.S. so I can get the same level of care and comfort my parents received but alas the jobs are scarce, competition is fierce and housing cost are astronomical because so many people want the same as me.
posted by srboisvert at 6:03 AM on October 26, 2021 [1 favorite]


Saying "don't build single-room rentals" is a perfect example of trying to solve a social problem with a technical response. If only nice expensive housing is built then everyone will live in nice expensive housing, right? Yay! Oops no the poor people will still live in your city, but they will live in the park and on the sidewalk and under the freeway.

Well, in the lived experience of my teachers back then in the 1980s, very high quality housing built on municipal land either by the city or by housing associations ended up being very cheap very high quality housing after 30 years. Actually now, 30-40 years later, that housing (1920s-1950s) is still cheap, there is just not enough of it. Because what happened in the 1970s and 1980s was that there was high-interest and high inflation, and construction expenses sky-rocketed. This led the housing associations to choose lower-quality construction, so even though the public housing that was built in those decades is cheap now, it is not high quality, contrariwise, buildings from that era need constant repairs, specially concerning the facades, which are very important from the point of view of ressource economy.
posted by mumimor at 6:23 AM on October 26, 2021


In the UK we have quite a lot of housing in multiple occupation (HMOs). You get a bedroom with lock, plus access to a shared kitchen and bathroom(s). Typically a UK house might have been built with two reception/living rooms and some number of bathrooms. Usually in an HMO the reception rooms have been turned into bedrooms. The landlords have a tradition of being slumlords so they have to be registered with the local authority and comply with more stringent safety regulations than other rentals. I believe it is possible to make good money from them as a landlord. For the tenants, if legit they offer a safe enough place to live, finding people to live in the other rooms is the landlord's problem and they are probably the cheapest legal form of housing for a single person. They are not aspirational.
posted by plonkee at 9:44 AM on October 26, 2021 [2 favorites]


I don't know that housing is entirely (or mostly) the solution to this problem, but my grandmother's assisted living unit was basically a normal one-bedroom apartment with a small kitchen. There was a dining room, and she often ate dinner there, but she could choose to cook and eat in her own apartment. There's no reason that you couldn't have the shared-facilities model and still give people the option of having more privacy and independence if and when they want it.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:21 AM on October 26, 2021 [14 favorites]


It strikes me, then, that the problem is not "NIMBY"-ism, but that the housing council in a given community is itself only allowing for one kind of option, and perhaps ought to be pressured to allow for both kinds instead of shutting anyone out of their preference.

I mean...I don't think we have a "housing council" at this level. There's just proposals from private developers who have to get their plans (sort of) approved, and this is put to the public but not really for a vote, just for discussion, and ideally the alderman will sort of consider the community consensus, but I don't believe they're compelled to.

And also it's like...there's not infinite space to develop? There's like ...one or two lots that went up for sale at any given time.

So what happens is: lot gets sold; developer proposes insanely expensive Adult Dorm; community has meeting; people argue for and against, sometimes signing petitions or such; Alderman ultimately just does whatever the developer wants because bribes, and then Insanely Expensive Adult Dorm probably gets built but maybe instead gets stalled for 10 years with nothing being built at all.

Weeeeee.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 11:33 AM on October 26, 2021 [2 favorites]


And also it's like...there's not infinite space to develop? There's like ...one or two lots that went up for sale at any given time. So what happens is: lot gets sold; developer proposes insanely expensive Adult Dorm; community has meeting; people argue for and against, sometimes signing petitions or such; Alderman ultimately just does whatever the developer wants because bribes, and then Insanely Expensive Adult Dorm probably gets built but maybe instead gets stalled for 10 years with nothing being built at all.

Right - and what I am suggesting is, instead of being one of the people arguing for or against the proposal, people could put their attention to "signing petitions or such" which would call for either a) zoning more of those lots for residential development, followed by b) attracting a greater variety of types of housing, with a side of c) throw out the alderman for taking bribes.

That doesn't call for "infinite space to develop", it calls for more focus on how the sausage is made when it comes to deciding how much space does get developed and how those proposals are selected and presented for us to vote on.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:39 AM on October 26, 2021


Petitions mean jack shit in Chicago. It pretty much goes the way Blast Hardcheese posits.
posted by tiny frying pan at 11:41 AM on October 26, 2021


There are a bunch of ways to reduce housing costs in general, all having very different ideological foundations. In America’s cities we’ve basically chosen to combine the worst parts of all of them — little and poor quality public housing, lots of barriers to building, exclusionary zoning, and volatile property values (as well as housing speculation becoming a lot of people’s auxiliary retirement plan).

I obviously prefer the Viennese model (governments build lots of gorgeous seven-story apartments on land they own) but it requires the city to have a lot of power and money. In the US those are more concentrated at the state and federal level, where it is usually more conservative and can be a political liability to spend “too much” on cities. This is also partly down to the usual racism and xenophobia that comes up during any discussion of public goods in the US, of course.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:02 PM on October 26, 2021 [4 favorites]


it calls for more focus on how the sausage is made when it comes to deciding how much space does get developed and how those proposals are selected and presented for us to vote on.


yeah again over here it is not voting, there is no vote. We can argue but we cannot decide.

Yes there is a massively entrenched massively corrupt government here that needs to be nuked from orbit but like...so does the national one, we're probably not going to get that taken care of in the next couple years either, and meanwhile I am not getting any MORE fond of adult dorms that cost more than my 1-bed and involve sharing bathrooms with strangers and where I, as a middle-aged woman who doesn't work in a shiny tech job, would hardly be welcome in practice. SO yeah, gonna keep arguing against them when given the option.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 12:05 PM on October 26, 2021 [2 favorites]


Okay, but I'm not sure how we ended up talking about Chicago specifically when I was initially addressing KnottyKnots' comment which implied that they were actively trying to block one specific kind of housing for everyone because they personally didn't like that one model, and assumed no one did.

Setting aside the difficulties unique to a specific location, do you understand my larger point that perhaps accepting that having a greater variety of types of housing would overall be better, and perhaps would be a noble goal to strive for in general?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:20 PM on October 26, 2021


I don't think so because there is no "in general" for these issues. It's always hyper locale specific.
posted by tiny frying pan at 12:29 PM on October 26, 2021


Setting aside the difficulties unique to a specific location, do you understand my larger point

I believe this variation is named "I'm not a NIMBY, I just don't believe these should be in my backyard and don't care about places outside my backyard so we must ban them universally".

Honestly? Young folks on mommy and daddy’s money are close enough to college that they remember how much it fucking sucks when you’re trying to brush your teeth for bed while a drunk stranger pukes 3 feet away from you. No wonder they aren’t rushing to continue that lifestyle.
This is just false. Like, why argue if you're just making things up? Here, let me counter with something equally based in reality: actually if we build these microstudios climate change will be reversed instantly.
posted by bashing rocks together at 12:43 PM on October 26, 2021 [1 favorite]


even though the public housing that was built in those decades is cheap now, it is not high quality,

it is absolutely possible to build both high-quality single-room accommodations and plywood mcmansions, so I don't know why "but shitty materials" is relevant to whether you should avoid building single-room accommodations. "Expensive" in that comment is about cost of living in, not cost of materials. A minimum unit of 3 bedrooms is "more expensive" for a single person to live alone in than a minimum unit of one studio.
posted by bashing rocks together at 12:46 PM on October 26, 2021


Lol as if I had a backyard
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 12:51 PM on October 26, 2021 [1 favorite]


How about this, then? I don't like the move towards "microstudios" as a viable option, charging market-based rents (not discounted, not explicitly subsidized--that's another matter), because I fear the precedent that's set when we start treating private bathrooms and kitchens as luxuries.
posted by knotty knots at 12:52 PM on October 26, 2021 [13 favorites]


^^^ bing bing bing

also I dunno what is false about saying that when you have a bunch of young people in one place you will definitely encounter drunk people and barf at a time when you are not actively seeking that out. Like, this is ... objectively the case. Young people as a rule like to get drunk and aren't, as a rule, super talented at doing so tidily.

And I don't think it's like...nuts? completely? to think that maybe a teacher in her 40s isn't STOKED to live around that 24/7 and probably shouldn't have to?

A ton of the discourse around both broke AND single people assumes that everyone is one or both until they're 30 and then they're neither, and frankly this housing derail seems to be taking that tack just as much. Why would a single person want privacy? Why would they want a pet, or their own toaster, or for nobody to make it their business when they bring a date home at night, why are single broke people even pretending like they're people.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 1:01 PM on October 26, 2021 [8 favorites]


> Setting aside the difficulties unique to a specific location, do you understand my larger point

I believe this variation is named "I'm not a NIMBY, I just don't believe these should be in my backyard and don't care about places outside my backyard so we must ban them universally".


Wait, you're not saying that of my position, are you? Because it's more like "I think we should work towards a world where everyone has the kind of housing that suits them best, and if that involves putting a commune next to an SRO next to my own building, then awesome".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:02 PM on October 26, 2021


This feels like the debate over cable packages vs. a la carte pricing all over again.

"Hey, I don't want this sports package, is there a way I could get the Discovery Channel & other channels I like without having to spend a bunch on the parts I don't need?"

"But wait, I like sports, and the only way I can afford them is if the price is averaged out among everybody. I don't want to have to pay a lot more for a sports package"

etc.

Based on how that's turned/turning out, I think the answer is "rent-seeking means as much money as possible will be extracted no matter how the ground game is structured, so without putting protections in place/solving that, this ends up being a dispute over whose shoulders the brunt of the market lands on"
posted by CrystalDave at 1:06 PM on October 26, 2021 [1 favorite]


also I dunno what is false about saying that when you have a bunch of young people in one place you will definitely encounter drunk people and barf at a time when you are not actively seeking that out. Like, this is ... objectively the case. Young people as a rule like to get drunk and aren't, as a rule, super talented at doing so tidily.

But no one said that it was exclusively young people who would want these kinds of rooming-house setups. In fact, a great many people just upthread right here said that they'd be down for this exact kind of living situation, and I would wager we are a variety of ages.

And again, I'm not saying that you need to like it. I would personally not avail myself of such a setup either. However, I simultaneously acknowledge that there are people who would dig this, and their needs deserve to be met in an ideal world as well as my own needs.

How about this, then? I don't like the move towards "microstudios" as a viable option, charging market-based rents (not discounted, not explicitly subsidized--that's another matter), because I fear the precedent that's set when we start treating private bathrooms and kitchens as luxuries.

Now here we are in agreement. I just question whether "ruling out microstudios and co-housing situations altogether" is the best way to combat this particular outcome. (Also, Knotty Knots, I admit that I misunderstood your position because initially it sounded like you were arguing from a place of "I don't want to be in a drunken frat house" as opposed to a more economic argument.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:07 PM on October 26, 2021 [2 favorites]


But no one said that it was exclusively young people who would want these kinds of rooming-house setups. In fact, a great many people just upthread right here said that they'd be down for this exact kind of living situation, and I would wager we are a variety of ages.

Again, I only argue against it because in my area, when this is posed specifically for my neighborhood, it is 1000000000% marketed as "do you miss college? Are you a white 24 year old in tech? THIS IS FOR YOU AND NOT FOR ANYONE WHO ISN'T YOU."

The minute someone changes the narrative to "this is affordable," or "this is aimed at bringing new people [read, POC or immigrant populations] to the neighborhood" or "this is about density", THAT is when the NIMBYs come out with their code words about "parking" and "neighborhood character" and "well what are we supposed to do with all of these extra people."

I never argue against a single affordable, density-increasing housing development proposal in my ward meetings. Ever. But these grown-up dorms are not that. They are not affordable. They are not meant to solve a housing crisis but to part fools from their cash.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 1:13 PM on October 26, 2021 [3 favorites]


it is absolutely possible to build both high-quality single-room accommodations and plywood mcmansions, so I don't know why "but shitty materials" is relevant to whether you should avoid building single-room accommodations.

The idea was (and it should actually still work with relevant regulations) that high quality rent controlled public housing would be slightly over the budget for the working class right after construction, but that it would be attractive for the middle class. Then after a period of ten-twenty years, the middle class would move out from those rent-controlled apartments to better homes, such as row-houses which were also built and owned by municipalities or non-profits, and the still very good original apartments would be available for people with lower incomes. In time, the row-house inhabitants would have saved up for small but well made individually owned houses (the quality controlled by the state), and the low wage apartment dwellers would be able to move on to the row houses, etc. And the important thing is: the system worked! It worked very, very well from 1920-1970, with public infrastructure to match it.
Even in the first decades it worked, in spite of the initial high price of the first housing projects, because the middle class vacated privately owned rented homes like the one I live in today, which were not up to (at the time) modern standards, but which were sound and spacious and pure luxury to working class renters.

AFAIK, similar programs worked in the US, but at a much smaller scale, because there was an aversion to high quality social programs, and a lack of understanding of how value could trickle up as well as down.

Vienna, mentioned above, is the best example of how this can work on a huge scale.
posted by mumimor at 1:14 PM on October 26, 2021 [1 favorite]


I forgot an important point: this system only works if the homes have the same high quality after 20 years as when they were built. The reason plywood McMansions work is that the land price rises so rapidly that the value of the building is insignificant. I'm not sure this is really true in the US or Europe, we may be in for a bust that is even worse than 2008. But in Japan, rapid turnover is a fact of life.
posted by mumimor at 1:18 PM on October 26, 2021


Blast Hardcheese - that makes sense. In my own community, that is actually not how such buildings are marketed, though, which may explain why we're having a disconnect in this particular conversation.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:21 PM on October 26, 2021 [1 favorite]


also I dunno what is false about saying that when you have a bunch of young people in one place you will definitely encounter drunk people and barf at a time when you are not actively seeking that out.

well, that's false. But I was mostly pointing at the bit where you said that rich professional young people are not interested in the kind of accommodation we are talking about. And the bit where you think only young single people might live in these, and there couldn't possibly be any privacy, and that anyone cares about Chicago

Empress Callipygos: not at all! It was about the responses to you. See everything above.
posted by bashing rocks together at 1:26 PM on October 26, 2021


I don't know. As someone who is childless and whose spouse lives thousands of miles away most of the time, I feel incredibly lucky. I'll happily trade the assumption that I can show up for random last minute work things for the incredible freedom to show up for random last minute work things. Making accommodations for people who have kids seems. . . pretty reasonable, actually. Taking care of kids requires enormous effort. I'd give parents more slack and benefits than we currently do. (I'd also encourage anyone who isn't passionate about having kids to seriously consider the option of not doing so.)

The leaving a hospital thing, though, is truly infuriating. In my field, getting called on to pick up a random colleague whose family is in another country happens roughly every two years. I think next time I have a procedure done, I'm just going to walk out and dare them to restrain me. The guy in the office next door is a fine person, but he's not nearly as experienced or well insured as a cab driver.
posted by eotvos at 3:01 PM on October 26, 2021 [1 favorite]


and that anyone cares about Chicago

ahahaha ok there it is. LOL point taken, MeFi is for New Yorkers and the PNW exclusively, with exceptions made for very detailed notes about Australian real estate legislation.

In fairness, deep dish is trash, so probably nobody should ever care whether Chicagoans live in the streets.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 4:23 PM on October 26, 2021


Like seriously, mentioning Chicago was rude? This is where I live and there are HUGE problems with housing here.
posted by tiny frying pan at 4:24 PM on October 26, 2021


I don't know, there did seem to be a tendency of commenters to universalize their own complaints/difficulties.

he says, from a place that gets mentioned on Ask once a year, and on the Blue more once a decade
posted by sagc at 4:27 PM on October 26, 2021 [1 favorite]


I thought the opposite...that a good idea for housing may not be realistic in every city.
posted by tiny frying pan at 4:29 PM on October 26, 2021 [1 favorite]


I don't know, there did seem to be a tendency of commenters to universalize their own complaints/difficulties.

That goes in all directions though, no? I mean, the original assumption was that somehow "900/month" -- a number given by someone who seems to be distinctly NOT in NYC-- would be the price of the thing IN New York, and therefore every New Yorker would murder 15 puppies and Kermit the Frog to get it. Taking ten seconds to think "hey, maybe this person lives somewhere that 900 a month is actually quite expensive" would have cut this derail off 100 comments ago.

I mean jesus fuck is it not hard enough to live alone in this world without all of this inter-city chest-puffing rivalry bullshit
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 4:43 PM on October 26, 2021


Like seriously, mentioning Chicago was rude? This is where I live and there are HUGE problems with housing here.

It's not that mentioning Chicago was "rude". It's that I wasn't informed that we had started only talking about Chicago; I was talking more generally, and wasn't aware that I wasn't supposed to be.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:14 AM on October 27, 2021


I didn't know I needed to inform anyone that I was talking about my own lived experience in Chicago. Where housing has lots of issues and some of these ideas don't work here currently. These comments were completely germane to the conversation, so that didn't deserve derision.
posted by tiny frying pan at 5:31 AM on October 27, 2021


Derision was not intended, and if it came across that way I apologize. I was speaking from more of a place of confusion - because I was not speaking strictly about Chicago, but it sounded like everyone was treating me like I was and it was just confusing.

Of course Chicago has its own particular quirks, just like every community does. I was speaking in a more generalized sense, however, and I was just a bit confused as to how that was not clear. I further apologize for whatever part I had to play in that lack of clarity in what I was saying.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:18 AM on October 27, 2021 [1 favorite]


Making accommodations for people who have kids seems. . . pretty reasonable, actually. Taking care of kids requires enormous effort. I'd give parents more slack and benefits than we currently do.

It isn't that I don't think parents need more slack and benefits -- of course they do, but so does everyone. Giving them only to parents simply makes it harder on non-parents, who get to pick up the slack, and especially to, as this thread is about, single people. It's of course a version of "let's you and him fight", which is why workers, single or not, parents or not, should ask for accommodations to be available for everyone.
posted by jeather at 7:44 AM on October 27, 2021 [7 favorites]


re: Selena777 on room-based rentals

young professionals who value personal space and make enough money to live in the city are a market, too, which is why I wonder if this model isn’t available for them or isn’t desirable to them
.

My guess would be not desirable, since at the price points I'm seeing they could usually rent a 2BR (with fewer "amenities" but with actual privacy) and not have to be in their thirties sharing a communal bathroom with other people. When I've looked at them I've realized I would *barely* if a all save money over my current 1BR, I'd probably not be able to keep my cats, and I'd lose tons of privacy related to having my partner over (also she's trans, so not having public-bathroom related worries in her own home is extremely real). Absolutely not worth it to me.
posted by augustimagination at 8:54 AM on October 27, 2021 [3 favorites]


Taking ten seconds to think "hey, maybe this person lives somewhere that 900 a month is actually quite expensive" would have cut this derail off 100 comments ago.

You could also take ten seconds to think, "hey, maybe this comment that specially mentions NYC is about NYC and not about other places" and not derail in the first place.
posted by Mavri at 9:17 AM on October 27, 2021


I know I can't make anyone understand anything by now but the point is that this housing would not cost 900 dollars a month in NYC and nobody ever meant to suggest that it would. Someone said they were going for around that much in their NOT NYC area. And I chimed in that along with their other issues, they are similarly priced in Chicago, where that price point is merely "fine," and not a fantastic deal.

A NYC poster saw that 900 and made a mistaken assumption that the 900 dollars was a NYC price so how could anyone ever not want this. Anyone here is aware that 900 a month is an insane deal in NYC. We're midwestern, not stupid. But what we keep trying to say is that it would cost the *equivalent* of a 900/month Chicago apartment, so probably ~1600 a month in NYC. Does a semi-public bathroom and kitchen at $1600/month still sound like a profound, life-altering deal that only a racist NIMBY monster would even so much as question?
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 1:51 PM on October 27, 2021


There’s a development near me that used to be open farmland, and is now covered with over 100 tiny houses. It avoids looking like a trailer park partly because of the non-grid layout, and partly because the houses all have pointy roofs, wooden siding, and lots of gingerbread trim. They’re painted in fanciful colors that make it look like a Munchkin village or an illustration from a fairytale. The houses don’t look like something more than one person could live in. I’ve never done enough investigation to check out what they rent for .
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:01 PM on October 27, 2021 [2 favorites]


Underpants Monster, are you near Ithaca by any chance? I've read about developments like that going up in the Ithaca area, and am really interested in how they work.

I have about 60 acres with a small farmhouse on it about 2 hours outside of NYC and have discussed with my brother (who's a builder) about doing something similar (but smaller) there.

For me, who's been single most of my adult life, yes there are financial penalties (my business partner, who is married, does much better financially even though we make the exact same money because of additional husband income and shared expenses), and when I bought my house here in Brooklyn, the mortgage guy said that it's very rare for a single woman to buy something on her own, as if I have a choice.

The really tough thing is getting motivated to do pretty much anything. It's really easy for me to slack on stuff when it's just me being responsible to me. When I had a husband, we were able to nudge each other and motivate each other to do projects, trips, big investments, fix stuff in a timely manner, find fun stuff to do, etc.
On my own it's much easier to fall into a cycle of, oh, I'll fix that next month, and maybe I'll just stay in instead of going out and be social....

It just seems more than twice as hard to motivate to do anything when there's no one poking me about being a lay-about.
posted by newpotato at 2:05 AM on October 28, 2021 [5 favorites]


I didn't know I needed to inform anyone that I was talking about my own lived experience in Chicago.

I didn't realize anyone else had mentioned Chicago, sorry to have been unclear. You didn't have to, and obviously there's nothing wrong with referring to specific experiences. I have nothing against Chicago in general, only when some local quirk is used as an argument that e.g. the existence of microstudios is an example of contempt for single adults.
posted by bashing rocks together at 12:26 AM on October 29, 2021


I recently had to pay for a "medical transport" for exactly this reason -- the staff wouldn't allow me to stay until sober, they wouldn't allow me to hire a cab/Uber/Lyft, they refused to believe I didn't have anyone to pick me up

In addition to n-thing most of the comments up-thread the surgery thing speaks to me. In the past I’ve had to
- huddle under the counter at the post office
- rely on an ex-boyfriend when our five-year relationship had ended only weeks earlier
- teach a friend to drive stick shift because she didn’t have a car

Not to mention sitting in the waiting room to get biopsied for a cancer scare and ugly-crying because if the lump was malignant I’d have to handle my own care. I watched my dad go through cancer and without his loving and helpful support network taking him to appointments, keeping notes about his procedures and just being there for him - he and his six siblings were together for the first time in over twenty years the week he died - it would have been a far worse experience for him.
posted by bendy at 8:40 PM on November 20, 2021 [3 favorites]


I could write a whole volume about homeownership as a single person. /fans self
posted by bendy at 8:42 PM on November 20, 2021 [2 favorites]


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