Saturday, December 13, 2008

Real Estate Section Announces That It Has Officially Run Out Of Story Ideas.

It's called sharing a home, it's been around for about a million years, and the Times has put it on the front page of its Real Estate section tomorrow because, really, how many times can you chronicle the impact of the credit crunch on home buying and renovations? (Don't worry, that story will be back next week in its regular spot.)

The idea behind Elizabeth A. Harris's cover story is this: young people co-habit homes, to cut down on rent. This means they have communal kitchens, living rooms and bathrooms. They live like this for months, perhaps years, while they save money and await a more permanent lifestyle.

Sound familiar? Let's see, maybe that's because you did it, we did it, everybody does it, and people have been doing it for centuries.

Even the experts Harris interviews are trying to spare her the embarrassment of publishing this story and calling it news:

“There’s always been a tradition of this, especially for the lower end of the housing market,” said Alex Schwartz, the chairman of the department of urban policy analysis and management at the New School. “What you may see now is it’s extended up to portions of the housing market — people who previously wouldn’t live in this sort of unit.”

But if that's true -- and that was awfully nice of you, Alex, to give her that little ray of hope -- it's not mentioned here. Instead Harris focuses on the obvious examples we carry in our head from movies, books, and personal experience: gallery assistants and graduate students who can't afford to live alone, and like paying rents below $1,000 a month that only sharing allows. If you can call it focus -- she only finds three examples, in a city of 8 million residents.

Reporting is so scarce in Harris's story that she actually devotes its final six paragraphs to an interview with an unnamed landlord in Williamsburg, who rents rooms to multiple tenants in his properties. But hey, the anonymity was worth it, especially you get to this gem of a quote at the end:

Many of the people who do decide to move in, he says, find more than just a good economic solution to a pricey town.

“They come here and meet other young, creative people doing their things,” he says. “They end up hanging out together, maybe forming lasting friendships. And then they move on.”

Wow, no kidding. What happens next? Do they get their own apartments and renovate them? We hate being left hanging.

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