‘There’s a lot more to negotiate’: how Covid-19 has changed roommate hunting | Home

‘There’s a lot more to negotiate’: how Covid-19 has changed roommate hunting | Home

When Sydney resident Evelyn Bratchford’s housemate tested positive for Covid this week, she was away at her boyfriend’s home.

Unwilling to return home and risk being exposed, she says: “Now I feel like a little lost egg.

“I showed up at my friend’s last night with a small bag of things from the suitcase in the back of my car and my pillow.”

Screening for potential roommates is always a risky business, even without the added pressure of a pandemic. Since the restrictions eased in Sydney at the end of last year, Bratchford has had to go in search of both a new house and a new flatmate, making her well accustomed to the challenges.

Bratchford lives with two other people and has for the last few months felt quite relaxed about his home’s Covid protocols. But up until Christmas, the whole household decided to screen together.

“I wanted to be able to take off, and I was really aware of what I was doing, just like my roommates,” she says. “We were all really aware that in the weeks before Christmas we just wanted to calm down, because things were going off track.”

While Bratchford is fortunate to have like-minded roommates, Jemima Mowbray, head of politics and advocacy at Tenants’ Union of New South Wales, says questions about what kind of risk people are familiar with have become significant in recent months.

“In the lockdown, there were clear restrictions in place. But now you have to make your own decisions, and there is a lot more to negotiate,” says Mowbray. “People want a friendly conversation and it can be easy to get along with someone, but you have to establish the ground rules, how you live and what you are comfortable with … Covid makes it really clear. “

It can be uncomfortable to navigate these conversations, and asymmetrical attitudes to what safe socializing looks like can easily boost household tensions. Bratchford recognizes that it can be hard to tell where new roommates are, especially when you do not know them very well.

When looking for a new housemate, Bratchford’s household advertised themselves as fully vaccinated after noticing that a lot of sharing house ads contained this information.

Claudia Conley, community manager at Flatmates.com.ausays: “We have seen a lot of members actively offering their vaccination status on a list. A large number of real estate advertisements announce that they want a fully vaccinated and Covid-safe home.”

Conley also says the website’s support services have seen an increase in members asking if they can screen potential candidates based on vaccination status.

But with ransom debt and bills to pay, the pressure to fill a room can diminish the importance of Covid security. That’s the case for Brisbane – based university student Hugo, who is currently looking for a housemate. He reflects that he should probably ask potential roommates about their attitude toward Covid-19, but says, “I do not want to deter people.

“Ultimately, we need someone to take the room, and if they are a sweet person, that’s good enough for us.”

Sydney-based student Emilia Roux is in a similar situation as she seeks to move away from home for the first time. “Having someone on the same page as you about Covid is a good thing, but it’s not a dealbreaker,” she says.

“It’s hard to be picky at the moment as there are fewer international students and people moving away from home, so it’s already hard to find people without the extra pressure of Covid measures.”

She has taken a subtle approach. “Mostly I think it’s about observing someone and picking up their signals to see if they’re on the same wavelength. For example, are they wearing a mask?”

Sign up to receive Guardian Australia weekend culture and lifestyle email

Mowbray believes a wider housing pressure has resulted in casualties. “I suspect there have been major clashes where people have moved out and found different homes,” she says. “But on the other hand, you may find yourself in a situation where you need housing, and staying resident is the only option for you.”

Bratchford and her household had conversations about how to deal with Covid if they were to isolate themselves from each other in their homes. “We talked a lot about it and we were never able to decide what we would do in that situation.

“We wanted to joke about getting the dreaded video call from someone’s room after they did a test and got the result and we did not have a plan.”

The dreaded call came, and Bratchford decided to stay with a friend while her roommate recovered. Their other roommate, who has both had Covid and previously been isolated as a household contact, also chose to leave.

But the question remains, Bratchford says, “What should we do if next month I get Covid?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.