After initially commuting nearly two hours from Washington Heights in Manhattan to the K through 12 school where she teaches in Red Hook, Brooklyn, Valerie Love found a steal close to her classroom in November 2020. For $1,450, she rented a garden-level studio apartment within a townhouse in Clinton Hill, a neighborhood “on my vision board,” she said. The family who owned the house had fled the city for a second home, she said.
As the pandemic dragged on and the family showed no signs of returning, she began not just to settle in, but to revel: Ms. Love bought a velvet couch customized to fit the Clinton Hill apartment and sets of good dishes to one day entertain. (She arrived in 2019 to New York from Atlanta without furniture of her own, filling her shared spaces with IKEA or using roommates’ pieces.)
When the homeowners returned in December 2021, and Ms. Love had to seek new accommodation, she was floored by the jacked up real estate landscape: She was priced out of living alone close by her workplace. In areas where she might afford a place by herself, there was almost no inventory.
She ended up in Midwood, Brooklyn, in an apartment she splits with a roommate, paying $900 for her share. Her custom couch is now stored in a hallway, covered to protect it from the roommate’s cat; the nice dishes remain unpacked in a rolling suitcase. She doesn’t need either, but can’t bear to part with them, Ms. Love said, mementos of a paradise lost.
“I achieved one of the pillars of living in New York: If you can secure housing in New York, this is how you know you are making it in New York,” Ms. Love said. “It made me feel confident that I was accomplished and that I was just going to go up from there.”
She added: “And now I question: Did I regress?”
If it comes down to a choice between leaving New York City or enduring roommates, many still choose cohabiting — even if it means labeling the milk in the refrigerator and duking it out over whose hair clogged the drain, this time.