In New York, Roommates Make a Comeback

It can be lonely living alone, especially during a pandemic, so some renters are finding new places with friends and sharing both the experience and the rent.

In New York, where high rents, small apartments and vibrant social lives were, until recently, hallmarks of life, roommates were seen by many as a financial necessity rather than a lifestyle choice: people with whom one ideally maintained a cordial, if arms-length relationship until circumstances allowed for the move to your own studio apartment.

But in a world of Zoom meet-ups and masked outdoor gatherings, the appeal of living alone has dimmed. Cut off from the social whirl of pre-coronavirus life, distanced from friends and colleagues and lacking even the impersonal companionship of a crowded restaurant or a group exercise class, a studio apartment no longer seems the prize it once did. The right roommate, though, can also be a co-worker, a workout buddy and a dining companion.

Although many people in their 20s left the city to stay with family at the start of the pandemic, a lot of them have since decided to return. And what they want, are spacious apartments to share with friends, according to Robert Morgenstern, the founder and principal at Canvas Property Group, a New York-based real estate services firm.

“There are a lot of people who have great relationships with their parents and are happy at home, but that’s not universal,” Mr. Morgenstern said. “After four or five months, a lot of people were done. They’d rather sign a lease with friends in the city than work from home in isolation at their parents’ house.”

And, given that so much social life in the coming months will be apartment-based, people not only want spaces suitable for cooking, working and hanging out in, but roommates they actually want to do all those things with.

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