Americans are filming TikTok videos to let the world know about their country’s housing crisis

It is a ticking time bomb whose repercussions could still be felt in several months. Millions of Americans are struggling to pay their rent as housing shortages continue to plague Joe Biden’s country. Now, some are turning to TikTok to denounce their deplorable living conditions. Many Americans struggle to find housing, especially if they live in large metropolitan areas such as New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The pandemic has only exacerbated the problem by accelerating relocation plans for city dwellers. But the property market is struggling to keep pace, with low housing availability and strained supply chains.

As a result, many Americans are forced to live in shared housing, move back in with their parents, or even… move into their place of work. A Seattle resident, known on TikTok as @calm.simon, made the controversial choice. He posted a video of his move on the social network, where he is seen unpacking bags filled with clothes, books, food and kitchen equipment on his desk. “I’m moving from my apartment to my cubicle at work,” the office worker explains in a TikTok video. “They don’t pay me enough…so in protest, I’m just going to live at my job.”

This innovative initiative has been watched by millions of people on TikTok, and received over 1.7 million likes. Many netizens expressed their support for @calm.simon and shared their own experiences with the housing crisis that has plagued the United States for several years. “I had a co-worker doing this at work. Everyone knew about it and no one said a word to him about it. He had a little grill he was cooking on and stuff,” read a post below the video @ calm.situation. “I did this in 2014. It took three weeks to get fired and kicked out. Good luck,” says another user.

What about affordable housing?

And that’s exactly what happened to TikToker @calm.simon. He told Fast Company magazine that he slept under his desk for four days, until his superiors caught wind of his atypical lifestyle and asked him to leave his makeshift home. The employee then found himself faced with a dilemma: delete the videos of him living under his desk from the application and apologize, or expose himself to disciplinary sanctions. He chose to keep them on TikTok because he didn’t see the point of keeping “a job that doesn’t allow [him] to pay the bills.” According to the American magazine, the TikToker is now living in an Airbnb rental and looking for a new job.

While this Seattle resident’s case may seem extreme, it reflects the dire housing challenges facing millions of Americans. Even more since the start of the pandemic. In fact, 49% of Americans think finding affordable housing is a major issue where they live, according to the Pew Research Center. Only 39% thought this at the start of 2018.

Finding accommodation can be a daunting task in cities like Los Angeles, Boston, Washington, and New York. The Big Apple real estate market is known to be particularly fierce. Take for example the tiny studio in the Greenwich Village neighborhood, dubbed the “worst apartment” in New York on TikTok in February 2021. The video of this apartment, posted on the New York City Realtor account, shows a small closet in a room all so small. The toilet and shower (shared) are in the hallway. The price of this bargain: $1,650 per month. Millions of Internet users have watched and commented on the video tour of this studio, with reactions of astonishment and resignation. “I could get used to it,” confesses a TikTok user.

Tips and tricks

Many New Yorkers are now doing the same, sharing videos of their tiny apartments in the Big Apple on social media. @axelwebber’s video went viral last December. It shows a bedroom of less than 7m2 with a sink, a refrigerator surmounted by a microwave, a small closet and a bunk bed. “This is what it’s like to live in the smallest apartment in New York,” the young tenant explains in the video. “Whatever your expectations are, lower them.” And it seems to be an opinion shared by many tenants, since the post has garnered more than 7.7 million likes.

While the housing crisis plunges millions of Americans into great insecurity and precariousness, some tenants have become masters in optimizing small spaces. They show off their skills on TikTok, in videos showing decoration and storage tips popular with users of the social network. For example, over 3.4 million people watched how TikToker @tpayne0 transformed the 29m2 “shoebox” she lives in into a stylishly decorated studio.

While most of the comments under the post praise her good taste, some can’t help but wonder about her living conditions in such a small space. “Your house is so cute but this should be illegal especially with the price you are probably paying for it. Our housing crisis is in hell,” one user wrote.

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