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Rooming house revival?
July. 16, 2021
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by Ivan Raconteur

Fashions change and go through cycles, and the same is true for housing options.

I recently read a piece by a former staffer about how Minneapolis is considering bringing back rooming houses.

Officially known as the Single Room Occupancy (SRO) model, this type of housing typically involves renting an individual room. Bathroom and kitchen facilities are shared.

This was once a popular housing model, but half a century ago, many cities sought to eliminate these places. They had fallen out of favor.

Recently, however, there has been renewed interest in SROs.

This type of arrangement is definitely not for everyone, but it can provide a low-cost option for people in certain circumstances.

Single people of limited means, for whom other options are simply out of reach, might welcome this type of housing.

The SRO units are often furnished, which might be another attractive feature for some people.

The history of SRO housing is an example of how political thinking can be short-sighted.

Minneapolis, and other cities, put a stop to approval of new SRO housing projects because they were considered undesirable.

It is true that some people might want a single-family residence in the suburbs, with a manicured lawn and a two-car garage, but that may not be desirable or attainable for others.

People come from many different backgrounds, and have different needs. To think everyone should aspire to the same housing model is both arrogant and naive.

SRO housing obviously lacks the privacy of some other types of housing, but if it is a choice between that and being homeless, I suspect there are a lot of people who would prefer to live in SRO housing – if the government gets out of the way and allows this type of housing to be built.

SROs (or rooming houses as they were sometimes called in the past) provided a viable option for many people, whether it was based on choice or economic necessity.

There is a lighter side to all this, as well. Laurel and Hardy got through the Great Depression and beyond working on projects set in rooming houses.

When I think of the many pleasant hours I have spent watching the boys having misadventures in this type of housing, I realize what an important option this type of housing is.

Not only do these short films offer entertainment, but they illustrate the fact that not everyone has the same resources at their disposal. They might even make us more thankful for what we have.


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