Last November, the apartment building I have lived in for 23 years was sold to one of Boston’s most notorious landlords.
The change in ownership was like going from Spock to Jabba the Hutt, if you’ll forgive me for mixing my sci-fi franchises.
Heat suddenly became a luxury. Trash wasn’t picked up as often.
In February, even though my lease was not up until the end of July, the new owner required I check in to discuss terms of my renewal.
“You’ve lived here too long,” he told me over the phone.
I didn’t know how to respond to that. I thought landlords liked good tenants who stuck around, who were never late with the rent and looked out for the place.
Not this guy.
He told me he would be jacking my rent 50 percent.
That really did leave me speechless.
That’s no small sum, not on my earnings, anyway.
So I had to do some hard thinking.
I couldn’t justify spending what he wanted for the cramped one bedroom.
And what would happen a year later? How much would he want then?
I could try to rent somewhere else, but I would probably end up paying the same figure to someone else.
Housing in the Boston area is in a crisis. There’s a dearth of good rental units. The prices are exorbitant, even in my hometown of Somerville.
One recent study estimated a family has to earn $121,000 a year to afford to rent a two-bedroom in the Boston area.
And the prices are driving out a lot of good, hard-working people right out of their homes – like me.
I spent just about my whole life in Somerville. My father grew up there before me, and I’m a product of the Somerville school system. When I was a kid, the nickname “Slumerville” had some truth to it. But the city has been transformed in the last 20 years or so and is one of Massachusetts’ brightest gems, with booming neighborhoods and great cultural experiences.
It’s a quality of life I can’t afford, I found out to my chagrin.
When condos on “Meh” streets start at $489,000, something is seriously out of whack.
And just around the corner, “luxury” condos were being erected for $799,000. Who can afford a price like that? And who would pay that to live across from a vacant lot and a Dunkin Donuts?
Apparently, more than enough people. Those condos were sold before construction was finished.
But doesn’t it change the character of a community when so many working class people can no longer afford to raise their families there? Progress brings in many and evicts the others. And now I was one of the displaced.
My story has the best possible ending:
I found a beautiful condo on the South Shore. It’s more than twice the size of my old place, with a private deck. I’ll be paying considerably less every month than what my landlord wanted.
And it’s really mine. I have to remind myself of that every so often.
But I’ll always miss my hometown, and I’ll never get over the feeling that I was run right out of it because of one man’s greed.