It's been a long time since the NY Times' Real Estate section delivered a millennial trend story that was neither infuriating nor tone deaf nor straight trolling. But Friday's report on the Hot New Millennial Trend—putting up temporary walls in apartments so you can cram four people in a one-to-two bedroom apartment—is surprisingly non-stabby.
In a piece titled "Roommates Divide and Conquer With Temporary Walls," the Times digs into the phenomenon of young professionals building unconventional spaces so they can double up in living rooms and bedrooms, thereby slicing the rent on pricey apartments. In one one-bedroom apartment described in the piece, two women sleep in twin beds in the bedroom while two men split the living room, subdivided by a temporary half-wall. In another, three roommates split a one-bedroom with a living room subdivided into a windowed bedroom and windowless living room, an open dining area turned into another bedroom, and a fake wall added to the real bedroom so roommates could access the en-suite bathroom without disturbing anyone.
This is neither a new trend nor something specific to millennials, of course, but the piece notes how tenants occasionally skirt fire codes to fit into these apartments, to which landlords might turn a blind eye. Though housing codes require there to be natural light in living rooms; windows and 80 square feet of space in each bedroom; and that temporary bedroom walls leave two feet between their tops and the ceiling, some of these creative spaces lack these requirements. And though landlords generally need to get a permit to change apartments in the manner the piece describes, sometimes they don't bother.
"It’s not exactly the code of the law. It’s just how things work in New York City," William Aronin, a real estate litigation lawyer, told the Times. "Landlords don’t really care too much because one-bedrooms are sometimes $3,600, and what kind of 20-something can afford that?"
The tenants profiled by the Times live in Manhattan, and it's noteworthy that they could find cheaper, less funky living situations elsewhere in the city—indeed, Dan Wurtzel, the president of property management firm FirstService Residential New York, suggested young professionals move to Queens if they want to find affordable housing. But of course, once neighborhoods in the outer boroughs become popular, rents there go up too, and not-up-to-code apartments pop up again.
When I lived in Bushwick, my room was a poorly-constructed lofted space with no heat and no fire escape access, and our living room had no natural light. In Greenpoint, my building was zoned as a commercial space, we had no smoke detectors, and all our stoves and heat sources were electric—in the end, that didn't work out so well. But when you don't make a lot of money, you tend to overlook certain things to live in neighborhoods that are safe, that are fun, that are close to your job and your friends, and cramming into questionable spaces to slice hundreds of dollars off your rent doesn't seem like much of an issue.
Or you could, you know, live in a $4000/month commune.