Apartment Hunting and 'Kitchen Privileges'

If you live in a city of a certain size and do not own a home, chances are that you have had to spend a not-insubstantial portion of your life scanning Craigslist and other ad services looking for a place to rent. If you are not a particularly wealthy person, chances are that you have come across a great many listings in your price range that employ the crushing phrase "kitchen privileges."

Anna Pulley at the SF Weekly pointed out the insidious nature of the phrase in her article yesterday about Craigslist-bashing and the worst of housing ads:

As someone who recently spent many months looking for an S.F. apartment on CL, I've definitely seen my share of horrendous ads, but you know what? I'd far prefer to live with someone who likes her cat and would make me blended beverages than someone who would "appreciate it if you didn't use the kitchen," or would prefer I "not have sex in the house" (true story).

I appreciate a good Craigslist teardown as much as anyone, but Pulley's point, that the profusion of ads promising "occasional kitchen access (light cooking only)" or "optional furniture" is far worse than the occasional long-winded description of upbeat roommates, is a good one. A quick look through the Craigslist housing section for any major American city brings you into constant contact with the phrase. Any in-law unit, studio, or room share ad will carefully lay out how often the applicant might be allowed to use a kitchen: kitchen privilege levels can range from "none" to to "some" to "full."

"Kitchen privilege" implies that kitchens are some sort of exciting innovation that certain lucky renters are getting to test out in an advance trial run rather than just "the place where food happens."