Today the Times notices a little known and seldom enforced law that prohibits more than three unrelated people from living in an apartment or a house in NYC. Chances are that includes you and pretty much everyone you know, except maybe those ex-roommates who've broken loose and moved in with their significant others. (They'll be back!) So why would a city with such obscenely high rents try to deprive residents of an all-too-common necessity: non-familial cohabitation?
Eric Bederman, a spokesman for the housing department, says the code was devised for residents’ safety, to prevent people with multiple roommates from erecting barriers that would foil escape attempts during emergencies. But Jerilyn Perine, a former city housing commissioner, tells the Times that the roommates limit was implemented in the '50s, as an attempt to convert boarding house brownstones and their "sketchy inhabitants" back to family homes. Now we're all sketchy! And illegal. And leaving our dishes in the sink. (Sorry!)
Thankfully, the law is rarely enforced, in most cases only when a neighbor complains or inspectors spot a violation while visiting for other reasons. (Only three citations have been issued since July.) In 2008, almost 15,000 dwellings were occupied by three or more unrelated roommates, according to the most recent Census data. But anecdotal evidence—plus the fact that pretty much everyone we know is reduced to living with roommates into senescence—suggests that number is a little low. Instead of limiting the number of roommates in an apartment, maybe the city should start implementing roommate age limits.