Housing developers are tracking opportunities to make coliving more accessible and easier to manage. But why are so many roomies getting together? The motivations may make the difference in the housing design.

Alex Schelldorf shares a sunny Chicago apartment with a man who creates messes but who doesn’t, Schelldorf says, clean them up. His roommate also leaves doors open long enough for Schelldorf’s Shiba Inu to escape and has a habit of making what Schelldorf considers to be insensitive offhand comments to guests. But Schelldorf won’t have to deal with these annoyances much longer. This roommate, who declined to comment on their relationship, is not renewing the lease, and Schelldorf, 31, who works for an education-and-health-research nonprofit, again finds himself back at square one: on the internet advertising for a roommate.

His search for a compatible roommate hasn’t been a complete bust, Schelldorf says, but it has made him reconsider the way the assorted people he’s lived with have affected his life, both emotionally and financially. Over the course of eight years, he’s moved 11 times and has lived with 10 roommates. He’s also lived alone three times. But with student loans, a high cost of living in the cities where he’s resided—including Washington, D.C., and Tampa, Florida—cohabitation has been beneficial for his lifestyle and, he says, for his mental health.

“I genuinely enjoy living with other people,” Schelldorf says. “It sounds weird to say this, but just [having] another warm body in the house is sometimes good.”

For many Americans, cohabitating is a necessity, not just a preference. In decades past, many 20- and 30-somethings shared a household with their spouse—nearly half of the adult population lived with a spouse as recently as 2007—but lately, delayed marriage rates, climbing student-loan debt, and rising housing costs have led to increased numbers of doubled-up households, a term used by demographers to describe homes that include additional adults other than the householder or their partner. This includes people who live with roommates or parents. In 2015, about a quarter of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 lived with roommates, up from 23 percent a decade prior, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Nearly 32 percent of the overall American adult population lived in a shared household in 2017, an increase from about 29 percent in 1995, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of census data. In examining housing trends among young adults, Jonathan Vespa, a U.S. Census Bureau demographer, noted that by 2015, most adults between the ages of 18 and 34 were not living alone, or with a spouse or an unmarried romantic partner, a dramatic shift from the decade prior when most young adults in most of the country lived independently.

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