So we all know the DC housing market is a little tricky, especially as a student. If you live on campus, you’re paying $660 a month for the grand privilege of living in a triple, $900 for a double, and a nauseating $1130 per month for a single. If you want a nice, clean, in-the-city place, inconveniently away from campus [and without considering utilities] you’re looking at paying at least $850.
Where the fun comes in is the substandard room market. These are the places that, for a broad range of reasons, fall below the $850 threshold. And there is usually a reason. I’ve compiled a list of some of the living situations whose reasonable sticker prices come with other costs not quantifiable in dollars.
- Your room is a converted closet, roughly the size of a full- or queen-sized mattress in dimension.
- You live in an attic or basement that does not benefit from the heat or A/C in the rest of the house.
- Your room is unfinished (think: bare cement, pipes, environmental hazards, etc.)
- Your room is divided from the communal living room by only a curtain or screen.
- The kitchen to which you have access is shared with five other individuals, at least two of whom will steal your food and one other who will accuse you of doing so.
- The ‘close walk to public transportation’ means that to get to where you want, you must walk 15 minutes, wait another 15 for the bus, ride for 25, wait ten at the Metro and then, finally, ride to where you’re headed.
- You live with an older owner/landlord who is so exceedingly abrasive/critical/creepy/inquisitive/lonely that s/he has had to drive the rental price hundreds of dollars below cost.
- You live in a spider dungeon.
I hadn’t come across this last one, before. Upon moving back to the D.C. area to begin at AU this spring, I moved in with friends and lived on an unheated porch until a more private room in the basement became livable. Excited endlessly because of how cool the space stays even in the hot D.C. summers, I recently moved in all my belongings and got settled in. And that’s when I noticed the ceiling corners in my room slowly accumulating complex silken designs.
A little spider aquarium exists on my windowsill. Insulating plastic covers the outside of the sill, keeping the room more separate from the stuck-shut basement window & the outside air. In that narrow corridor between glass and plastic wrap is an intriguing world of furiously struggling flies, captive caterpillars, wrapped up mosquitoes and an artful arrangement of webs frequented by a colony of orb-weavers.
Harvey, the gigantic jumping spider, lives right under the head of my mattress, and I can see him leap up sometimes, inches from where my head lies on my pillow. When I forget momentarily, and drop a hand down between the mattress and the wall, I’m always concerned that he’ll remind me to give him his personal space. He’s almost the size of a roll of Scotch tape.
But I can handle it. The spiders enjoy the cool comfort of my room, as do I. They were residents long before I came around. They’ll most thoughtfully rid my space of pesky flies and bloodsucking mosquitoes, and I won’t even have to buy them a thank-you frozen pizza or bottle of wine. I’ll never get sexiled. And, ultimately, having a few quirky little roommates is the non-currency price I pay for $500 rent.
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