Once again the New York Times has realized that there are non-wealthy people who live in this city. Who knew! Yesterday, the New York Times Magazine published an article titled, “Their Solution to the Housing Crisis? Living With Strangers.”
“But wait, isn’t that just having roommates? Don’t people do that all the time,” you’re probably asking. You are correct, but the Times presumably wanted to do a stylish story tangentially related to the housing crisis, and this is what they came up with.
“The profound shortage in rental units has forced the city’s residents to figure out their own ways to live affordably,” write Alexander Samaha and Julia Carmel, “And that — especially for those moving to the city for the first time — often means living with total strangers.” To sum up their thesis: people be having roommates.
Samaha and Carmel spoke to eleven groups of roommates ranging from seven people living in an all-vegan townhouse in Bed-Stuy to teenage Ukrainian refugees who were taken in by a family on the Upper West Side. The thing everyone has in common is that they are totally chill with having roommates, maybe because cohabitating with people you don’t know that well isn’t the mind-boggling phenomenon the Times seems to think it is.
Three New York City transplants paying $1,300 each to live on the Upper East Side and complain about having to go to a laundromat? Sounds about right. A 68-year-old woman living with a 37-year-old woman in a mutually beneficial set up? Classic New York story. Three strangers moving to Bed-Stuy together? Well, now I’ve actually heard it all.
These people don’t even have any drama worth airing out. I would understand if this was a story filled with tales of nightmare roommates who find themselves in a K-hole while you’re on a Zoom meeting for your big law job, or ones who decide to start breeding guinea pigs in your living room. But this is just a round-up of people who, for reasons that are not always financial, live with other people they are not related to.
The New York Times Magazine is not the metro desk; they do not have the same obligation as the paper to report on exactly why there is a housing crisis in the first place. What they should be doing is publishing stories that have some kind of cultural insight that goes beyond “people live with other people sometimes.” But maybe I’m not their target demographic. Perhaps NYT Mag readers were indeed shocked to read this while eating half a grapefruit on their balcony overlooking Central Park.
“How do people live like this,” they wonder. Well, we maintain a passive-aggressive chore wheel, sometimes we leave our dishes in the sink, and we only pay attention to the Times Magazine when we want the Ethicist to tell us when it’s okay to hate our sister.