As housing costs soar, Seattle becomes nation’s top roommate city

By Larry

As living solo becomes more expensive, finding a roommate is essential for many city residents. Seattle now ranks No. 1 in the percentage of people living with an unrelated adult.

By Gene Balk for The Seattle Times,

After graduating from the University of Washington and landing her first job, Gaby Condarco took yet another big step toward adulthood — she rented her own apartment.

“I lived there for a year on my own,” she said of her Bell town studio. “I really loved living alone. But then I decided it was time to save some money and get a roommate.”

This fall, she did precisely that.

That might seem like a reversal from the natural progression for a newly minted college grad — typically, you start out with roommates and eventually move into your own place when you can afford it.

But as Seattle becomes increasingly expensive, transitioning from solo living to cohabitation may be the new normal.

According to the latest census data, Seattle is now the No. 1 city for rooming up and shacking up.

Last year, 70,000 Seattleites lived with either a roommate, or with a boyfriend or girlfriend. That pencils out to 12.5 percent of the adult population, highest among the 50 most populous U.S. cities.

In Seattle, the number of people in such living arrangements has jumped by 39 percent since 2010 — more than triple the rate of the city’s overall population growth.

And as you might have guessed, as more folks are choosing to live with another person, an increasingly small percentage are living alone.

In 2015, there were 118,000 singletons in Seattle. That number has remained basically flat for nearly a decade, even as the city experienced dramatic growth.

And that’s something of a surprise, because solo living was one of the defining characteristics of Seattle for many years.

As of 2015, 21.2 percent of Seattle adults lived by themselves, down from 22.6 percent in 2010. That’s the third-steepest decline among major cities. Five years ago, Seattle ranked fourth for the percentage of solo dwellers — now we’re barely clinging to the top 10.

With more people rooming together, household size is starting to creep up.

The average Seattle household in 2015 had 2.13 people, up from 2.06 in the 2010 Census.

The obvious explanation for all this: the city’s sharp increase in the cost of housing.

Having a roommate can mean big savings for a couple of reasons. While a two-bedroom apartment costs more than a one-bedroom, it’s typically a lot less than double the amount. And then the roommates can also split the cost of utilities.

According to an analysis by the financial-services company SmartAsset, the average individual savings for living with a roommate in Seattle comes out to $428 per month. Of course, if you move in with a boyfriend or girlfriend, the savings are even greater since you don’t need a second bedroom.

For people seeking a roommate, in addition to Craigslist, there is a Facebook group called Seattle Sublets, Apartments & Roommates that currently has more than 2,600 members.

That’s what Candarco used to find her roommate — she thought it less scary than Craiglist because you can see the members’ profile pages on Facebook. It took her only one day to find her roommate.

“I really like living in Belltown, so I pretty much just chose someone who was looking for the same thing as I was,” she said. “I wanted another professional who had a steady job, a nonsmoker — typical things.”

It’s only been a few months, but Candarco says it’s going well.

Still, she concedes, it’s been an adjustment.

“I think it’s worth it,” she said. “But I treasure the weekends when she’s traveling and I have the apartment to myself.”

Gene Balk: or 206-515-5052. On Twitter @genebalk

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