As rents rise, number of adults with roommates at highest level in decades, study finds

SEATTLE — Having a roommate as an adult may be fairly common in the first years out of college, but more older, single Americans are opting against living alone. In fact, one-third of adults now live with roommates, a byproduct of rising rents, a new study finds.

Researchers at Zillow, an online real estate database, analyzed figures from a 2016 U.S. Census Bureau survey and recently interviewed more than 13,000 Americans, asking them about their experiences with renting and homeownership.

Apartment complex
With rents jumping in many major cities, the number of single adults in America living “doubled-up” with roommates is at its highest since at least 1990.

One component of their inquiry looked at doubled-up households, which are those in which two or more working-aged adults — none of whom are romantically involved — live together.

Since the late 1990s, the share of doubled-up residences across the U.S. has increased by nearly 10 percent, their analysis showed — from 23 percent of households to today’s figure.

The researchers were able to clearly link the increase in shared homes with ballooning rental rates.

As a rule of thumb, those making the national median income should save about 30 percent of their earnings for rent, but this ratio is hard to achieve in some major markets, they explain.

In Los Angeles, for instance, the average renter needs to contribute nearly half of their income toward their lease, with San Francisco not far behind (42 percent).

“As rents have outpaced incomes, living alone is no longer an option for many working-aged adults,” says Aaron Terrazas, a senior economist at Zillow, in a press release. “By sharing a room with roommates— or in some cases, with adult parents— working adults are able to afford to live in more desirable neighborhoods without shouldering the full cost alone.”

“This phenomenon is not limited to expensive cities,” he adds. “The share of adults living with roommates has been on the rise in historically more affordable rental markets as well. Unless current dynamics shift and income growth exceeds rent growth for a sustained period of time, this trend is unlikely to change.”

Still, the more expensive an area’s rent, the more likely multiple individuals will live together, the researchers note.

Additional data from the survey showed that rent increases were the largest catalyst for changing addresses, with movers’ biggest priority being that their new place fit their budget.

The share of adults having roommates was at its highest since the company began reviewing figures dating back to 1990.

Zillow’s data was collected from adults, aged 23 to 65, living in the nation’s largest metropolitan areas in October.