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As a major city in a fairly wealthy state, Boston has historically boasted plentiful jobs, efficient public transportation and a wide variety of lively entertainment.
All of these luxuries, however, don’t come without a price.
Our beloved Hub has been dubbed by the Daily Finance Journal one of the top 10 most expensive American cities to live in. It can be difficult to grasp how a city so populated by college students could cost so much for housing. With prices reaching well into the thousands for single-bedroom and studio apartments, it gives those twenty-somethings something to really think about.
James Joyce, 23, a part-time server at the Cheesecake Factory in Boston and a student at Northeastern University, knows all too well the struggle of finding affordable housing in the city. Bouncing from one friend’s house to another, Joyce struggles to gain solid ground as he couch-surfs his way through vagrancy.
“I’m basically homeless,” Joyce said. “I pretty much just stay with my friends. “This friend this week, that friend another week. This city is too expensive and I just can’t seem to save up first and last on what I make.”
James’s situation is one that—unfortunately—many in his age group face. On average, people between the ages of 20 and 27 make about $27,545 per year. While this number is dependent on a number of factors, such as job type, it gives an idea of just how difficult it can be to manage a decent lifestyle and still afford rent.
A cursory look at data collected by Google research analyst and creator of the City Padmapper, Jeff Kaufman, shows that in 2011 the average price for a studio in Boston was about $1,100 per month, with the average one-bedroom costing about $1,300 per month. These numbers have steadily risen as the average cost of living has increased over the years. Today, studio apartments in attractive parts of the city such as the Back Bay, South End and Fenway can go for upwards of $1,300 to $2,400 per month. One-bedrooms can go for $1,500 to $3,000 per month.
Imagine living in an average one-bedroom apartment costing $1,200 per month on a salary of less than $30,000 a year: that leaves roughly $300 per week for everything else. It’s no wonder that Ramen noodles have become so closely associated with the college-aged demographic.
Luckily, pauperism isn’t the only option. Such difficult circumstances have given rise to alternative ways of living. Co-ops or group homes, for example, tend to boast extraordinarily low living costs that attract recent graduates.
Sometimes, young people are also lucky enough to find a merciful landlord.
“I charge only enough to cover my mortgage,” said Michael Farmer, a local homeowner and landlord affectionately called “Appleseed” by his tenants. “It’s pretty much whatever they can afford without hurting me. If $400 is all you can pay, fine with me.”
However, for those who are not looking to spend a great deal of money or just aren’t comfortable living with strangers, moving may the only option. Tia Murkinson, 23, has had to adjust her lifestyle after graduating from Northeastern University this past year.
“What they were asking for rent was crazy,” Murkinson said of an apartment she looked at. “I ended up taking a place all the way out in Quincy since it was the only way I could afford to live in a decent place within my price range.”
Some areas in outer Boston and just outside of Boston can be just as attractive for this age group as the heart of the city might be. Places such as Allston, Brighton, Mission Hill, Cambridge and Somerville are located just a short train ride away from downtown yet tend to exhibit much lower prices when it comes to apartments and rooms for rent.
In addition to being more affordable, these areas offer a wide array of cheap bars, restaurants and nightclubs as well as ample public transportation to and from the city, making them ideal for those in their early- to mid-twenties who are just starting out on their own.
“I just moved to Allston last summer and I love it so far,” said Gregory Fleming, 24. “I have three roommates and we all pay about $700 a month for a pretty nice place, so I’m happy with it. I guess you just kinda have to know where to look.”