The District Is Seeing More Married Couples Get Roommates, Study Shows

Rising housing costs in the area have pushed more married couples to take on roommates to save money, a new study says

There's no question that living in D.C. is expensive. So when Sue and her husband bought their first house together in Adams Morgan, they figured that one way both to manage the cost and to help out potential residents would be to take in roommates.

"It's cool to have the income to help pay off the mortgage, but that wasn't the initial motivating factor," said Sue, who didn't want her last name used. "When we bought this house, it wasn't with the idea of converting it into a boarding house."

But for an increasing number of D.C. residents, rising housing costs in the area may be what's behind an increase in married couples taking on roommates, a new study suggests.

According to real estate website Trulia, about 11,000 households in the D.C. area between 2012 and 2016 were made up of married couples living with roommates.

While the overall share of these types of households in D.C. — at 1.39 percent — looks small, it also marks a 66.4-percent jump from the last time Trulia measured these living arrangements, from 2005 to 2009.

The increase in the District mirrors a national trend: In 2018, the rate of married couples living with a roommate in the U.S. was 0.46 percent, or about 280,000 households, but that rate is double the rate in 1995, the report says.

Among the key findings in the study: Expensive markets on the West Coast are most likely to have more married couples take in roommates. In fact, D.C. is the only East Coast city to crack Trulia's top 10 cities with the highest share of married couples living with roommates. (It came in at precisely #10, in fact.)


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Trulia's Chief Economist Issi Romem says the number is still surprising.

"It's a compromise people are making now because of the current housing affordability situation," Rommem told News4. 

Married couples who are renting are also more likely than married homeowners to need a roommate to share housing costs, the study says.

Rommem says the study also suggests that married homeowners are more likely to take in a roommate to help alleviate that person's financial stress, while renters and potential roommates have an even mix of financial stress.

Sue said this experience is similar to hers: The residents she takes in as renters benefit from a cheaper living arrangement.

Sue said that her previous renters have often stayed for varying lengths of time, which provides flexibility to potential renters who may be financially limited.

"Some are just here for the summer; some are here longer term, for several years," Sue said. "For the most part, we've had a really good experience."

And she said she plans to continue to host roommates for as long as she can.

"It's a reassuring thing to know that long term once I retire, if we still want to keep doing this, it's a nice thing to have," Sue said.

Honolulu, Hawaii; Orange County, California, and San Francisco were the top three cities on Trulia's list.

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