Single mother working for the city of Boston can’t afford to live here
A city employee is often required to live within the city in which they are employed. Luckily, in my case that is not a requirement. It’s not recommended that an individual pay more than 30% of their gross monthly income towards rent. Thirty percent of my monthly gross income is approximately $1,230, and finding even a studio within the city of Boston for that price is basically impossible.
I recently browsed the city of Boston’s website looking for affordable housing opportunities. Studio $2,550, one bedroom $2,310; affordable in whose eyes, I have to wonder. I have applied for several tax-credit units throughout the city and have been wait-listed, time and again. I’m actually quite savvy when it comes to the ins and outs of affordable housing. I’ve been working in the field for well over 10 years now, but the irony is that I still can’t afford housing.
I’m a single mother of one daughter. She’s eight years old. In order to remain as a full-time city employee I must pay for her to attend an after-school program; it costs about $285 a month. I don’t receive child support because I actually make more money than her father, and since the two of us parted ways amicably and split physical and legal custody down the middle, I’m not entitled to child support or alimony. I make too much money to qualify for SNAP (aka food stamps), too much money to get assistance paying child care or transportation expenses, and too much money to qualify for most of the city’s subsidized housing. To be honest, I really don’t want that type of financial assistance. I don’t want to have to disclose all of my information to any agency in exchange for financial assistance. I’d prefer to do it on my own. I simply want to be able to afford to pay rent in place where my daughter and I can have a little privacy. Right now, we share a rental with her father, aunt, and cousin. Yes, I live with my ex-husband and his family quite simply because I don’t have any other choice.
My mom and dad passed away years ago, and my only sister lives in Vermont and struggles financially to care for herself; so, I’m pretty much on my own. I moved to Boston in 2004 after graduating from college in search of opportunity and excitement. I initially lived in a cute little dilapidated studio/one-bedroom unit in the Fenway for $1,075. It was expensive but affordable, especially considering the location and the fact that I lived with my husband, at the time. We always split all the bills down the middle. After two years, the owner presented us with a proposed rent increase and, as a result, we moved to a nice little one-bedroom in the North End, nothing included, but it was beautiful and only $1,100 a month. Unfortunately the landlady turned out to be a former mafia wife, and we had to move again a year later. It was just too much going on.
This is when we decided to take it outside of the city to Malden. We moved to a huge two-bedroom. It was great for about $1,200 a month and we stayed there until I got pregnant with my daughter. The landlord then offered us another two-bedroom in Malden, which was much smaller but happened to be deleaded, for about $1,350. It was a big jump in rent but we felt like it was the right thing to do, at the time. After about two years, we were forced to move. We could no longer afford to live there with all the new expenses that were brought on by having a child. We moved into small two-bedroom in a less than desirable neighborhood in East Boston for $1,200 a month.
One thing led to the next, and my husband and I separated. I could officially no longer afford to live in the city of Boston. I tried but after about three months, I couldn’t juggle all the expenses involved. This is when I had to move back in with my now ex-husband. I’ve been in my current living situation for just about five years. During that time, I’ve had so many doors closed in my face, I can’t even begin to tell you. Apparently, people aren’t really interested in renting to a single mother.
The rents in and around Boston continue to skyrocket. Politicians want you to believe that with all the new development in Boston comes more affordable units. Such as studios for $2,250, which even as a full-time city employee would be well over 50% of my gross monthly income. This price would afford me a room to share with my daughter potentially with a stove and refrigerator. Why not reimplement rent control? Politicians want you to believe that rent control would cease development in the city, but that’s simply not true. The city will continue to grow with or without rent control and for argument’s sake, haven’t we seen enough growth over the past 10 years? Look at the Seaport.
Politicians are well aware that they’re gentrifying Boston street by street and day by day, and they don’t care. If they did, they would be working to stop it or to make changes that would necessitate housing we can afford, not “affordable housing.” A term that’s come to mean very little to the residents of Boston.
Another popular myth says that small owners will pay the biggest price. Why can’t the rules or regulations be applied only to owners with 12-plus units or something along those lines? Truth be told, how many small owners are investing any portion of your rent back into the property? I can’t even get mine out to stop the smoke alarm from randomly going off throughout the day and night. Boston, if we don’t push to implement something “extreme” like rent control, those of us who don’t own property will soon be forced as far north as Manchester, New Hampshire, and as far west as Framingham and Worcester, as far south as Brockton. It’s happening, and we’re allowing it to happen.
*Jenna Jackson is the pseudonym of an employee of the city of Boston.