You are here: Home>Collections>People

No-roommate zone

Just because you live alone doesn't mean you have to be lonely

  • Living single
Living single (Getty Images )
March 25, 2012|By Tracy Swartz, RedEye

And then there was one.

For the past couple of months, Christina Bondra hasn't had to share the bathroom or the TV remote. She hasn't had to split the utility bill two or three ways. She hasn't had to ask a roommate to turn the Kelly Clarkson down. But she also hasn't had anyone to come home to.

And that's the way she likes it.

Bondra, 27, lives alone in a studio in the Gold Coast, which she called "a young and hip place to be." It's also a far cry from her home at Michigan State: the sorority house with 10 other ladies. She said she was happy to kiss roommates goodbye.

"There would be food out everywhere. They would open a cupboard and not shut it," Bondra said. "It's just easier now. You don't have to answer to anybody."

Though Bondra lives alone, she is not alone in her living preference. There are about 365,000 single-person households in Chicago, up 5 percent from 2000, recently released Census numbers show. Households with only one person comprise about one-third of Chicago's 1 million households—more than any other type of household, including those with two or three people.

Like Bondra, people who live alone tend to live downtown or on the North Side, data shows. The community areas with the highest concentration of single-person households are the Near North Side, Uptown, Lakeview and Lincoln Park.

But don't call these the loneliest neighborhoods just yet. People who live alone told RedEye they prefer their housing situations because they don't have to share anything—and that includes the bills. Living alone isn't for everybody, they said, especially those who are looking to shore up their friend numbers or their financial stability.

Eric Klinenberg, author of the new book "Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone," said the recession has discouraged some people from escaping the shelter of their parents' home.

But overall, the troubled economy hasn't been a roadblock to living alone. When conditions are tough, Klinenberg said, people tend not to get married because they feel insecure about making a commitment.

Also, more people are living alone because they think it will prepare them for future challenges, he said. These singletons are determined to develop a support system to make sure they can take care of themselves.

In Chicago, people who live alone tend to migrate to "destination neighborhoods," like some on the North Side, said Klinenberg, who once lived in Old Town.

"They are places where people go to live alone together," Klinenberg said. "They have lots of street life. They have easy access to bars and restaurants and cafes, places where people who live alone can find companionship."

Save for a semester in college, Chris Bangham had never lived by himself. When he moved to Chicago from Alabama nearly two years ago, he figured he was going to live alone, so he looked for places in Wicker Park and the North Side.

He settled on a one-bedroom apartment in the Boystown area of Lakeview, where about 47 percent of the households are people living solo.

At home, 28-year-old Bangham said he appreciates that the TV and the "messes are all mine now." He also showers with the door open.

And though his apartment is near several bars and restaurants, he still feels lonely in his building. He said he doesn't really know his neighbors because their spaces are too small to throw parties.

He's considered living with a friend if they can get a lease that works out for both of them.

"I miss having a roommate," Bangham said. "It gets kind of boring. I think my cat makes it better, and there's a lot of stuff going on outside here."

If Lakeview, Uptown and the Gold Coast are destination neighborhoods for singletons, then West Lawn, Gage Park, Little Village and Brighton Park are destination neighborhoods for couples and families.

These communities on the South and West Sides have the lowest concentration of single-person households, Census data shows. Little Village ranks last: About one in nine households are single.

In Brighton Park, on the Southwest Side, about 13 percent of households are people like Alvaro Garcia, who don't have roommates.

Garcia, 25, said he's been living alone for the past three years, after he moved out of his parents' house in Brighton Park. He said he chose to buy a place in the neighborhood because he wants to help better it.

"That's home for me," Garcia said. "If people don't stay in the neighborhood, then how do we expect it to improve?"

Still, Garcia said he finds himself traveling to other neighborhoods like Wicker Park and Lincoln Park to socialize. He said the Brighton Park bars don't have "eye appeal"— "You just find that there's not a lot of single people at these local bars."

FYIs for flying solo

Thinking of living alone? Maurice Ortiz of Apartment People, a Chicago apartment placement service, has a few tips for first-timers.

>>Evaluate the neighborhood's amenities. Renters living alone for the first time tend to want to live in more populated neighborhoods and be near shopping, nightlife and transportation.

>>If you are worried about safety, live in a building with a doorman or a secure entryway.

>>If finances are a concern, look to smaller spaces. Studios are about 20 to 30 percent cheaper than one-bedroom apartments. | @tracyswartz

RedEye Chicago Articles