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The high cost of living in Allston-Brighton

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Is A-B worth the cost of living?

By Alex Grutkowski / Correspondent

Friday, December 19, 2003

The residents and Realtors in the Allston-Brighton area are used to the fact that students fill the apartment buildings throughout town from September until June. During this time, young men and women from all over the world inhabit this area, looking for a decent place to live while juggling a full courseload at one of the local colleges or holding a full-time job - and oftentimes a bit of both.

The area depends on this influx of students to bolster an economy that drops during the summer months because a lot of students either go back home or just leave the area because of the poor job market. For those willing to stay in the area, high rent and landlords who collect money quickly, but fix problems slowly, are the norm.

Apartments in the A-B area tend to be in old buildings that are in need of some sort of repair or upgrade. Most young men and women who currently live in the area find it difficult to pay high monthly rental fees to a landlord who is often nowhere to be found when a problem arises. Last winter, Mike Hendricks, a resident who works full time at Our House, recently spoke about the problems with his last apartment.

"There was no heat in my [Allston] apartment for three months. My landlord didn't fix the problem, instead he just provided us with space heaters and plastic wrap over the windows for insulation ... It was ridiculous considering the price of the apartment was $2,200 per month," Hendricks said.

Apartments in poor condition, a struggling economy and a weak job market have also forced recent graduates to seek jobs elsewhere in the U.S. after graduation. A bachelor's degree does not automatically guarantee a high-paying job anymore, and most graduates are getting used to the idea of starting out at $25,000 to $30,000 salary per year.

The average studio apartment in the A-B area will run between $975-$1,200 per month. Plus, if you have a car, a parking spot will average $50-$150 per month and often will only provide a spot in an outdoor lot with little or no protection for you and your vehicle. Of course, these figures do not factor in the cost of utilities, food, laundry, gasoline, car insurance or school loan payments.

On top of all these costs, most renters are required to pay a deposit that is normally a lump sum of first and last month's rent, plus a security deposit. So, before you are allowed to set foot in your new apartment, you are required to spend up to $3,600 for a small apartment in an unrenovated building.

Before you know it, you have already committed more than half of your salary to your landlord. Ken Glass, owner of Phoenix Realty in Allston, has been watching students come and go for the last five years. Glass has also noticed that graduates are leaving the area due to the lack of job opportunities.

"Right now, it's a buyer's market. There are a lot more people buying property instead of renting because of the low interest rates," Glass said. "The local job market is bad, and it's forcing a lot of graduates out of town because there is nothing here for them."

Since most graduates do not have the money to buy property, they are forced to rent, and most young men and women can't find a way to pay high rent without a good job that provides a significant income that allows them live comfortably. Renters in the A-B area just want to get something good for their money and right now, most feel like they are being ripped off, and this in turn is forcing people out of the area.

From The Allston-Brighton Tab

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I can't say I completely agree with the conclusions of this article. Most students used to live in poor conditions for top dollar, which was also a problem for the locals because they had to compete against the very wealthiest students for the best apartments. Fortunately there are alot more options today. Most big schools have built dorms and there is actually an apartment glut in greater Boston but not in Brighton. My conclusions are that students will live further away from the schools and commute to save money and have a nicer place, like people do to their jobs or they will pay the higher price to be where the action is. The other option is that they can live in a dorm but they will have less freedom to come and go in the way that people that age may want it.

There is a market for apartments in that area and there is enough land to build so the city and the schools need to continue to do what has been working. As the next wave of student housing emerges the effect on the market will be amazing.

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I agree that there are a lot more dorms now, so the pressure from students is probably a little lower. I would love to live in on of the high rise dorm around BU on mom and Dad's $. The views have got to be fantastic.

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The BU dorms view of the Charles River Basin is amazing! These are small apartments with hi speed internet and 24 hour student facilities.

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