Busting budgets in Boston: Rising rents make finding apartments difficult

Photo by Matthias Rosenkranz via Flickr | Boston is a popular destination for recent Smith graduates, but it also has the third-most expensive rents in the country, behind New York City and San Francisco.  

Veronica Brown '16 Staff Writer

As rent prices in Boston soar to a record high, it has become increasingly difficult for recent college graduates to find an affordable first apartment in the city.

In 2015, rents in the Greater Boston area rose 5.7 percent to $2,009 per month according to Reis, Inc., a real estate market researcher. This increase was well above the national average of 4.6 percent. Boston is the city with the third-most expensive rents in the country, behind only New York City and San Francisco.

Boston is a popular destination for newly minted Smith alumnae. The Lazarus Center recently brought Smith alumna and real estate agent Kiersten Mailler ’10 to campus for a workshop on renting in Boston.

“Recent grads have an easier time finding rental homes if they have reasonable expectations of what they’re looking for in an apartment,” said Mailler. “New renters will quickly learn that they most likely won’t be able to afford a one bedroom or anything within walking distance to a downtown job.”

The standard budgeting suggestion is that no tenant should spend more than thirty percent of his or her annual income on rent. To split Boston’s average rent of $2,009 per month with one other roommate, a renter would have to be making an annual salary of $40,180. The U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard found that the median salary for Smith graduates who received federal financial aid, 54 percent of the student body, is $42,700 ten years after graduation.

Recent initiatives in the state legislature have tried to target the low vacancy rates that drive high rent prices. Representative Kevin Honan of Brighton introduced H. 1107 — which would require cities and towns to zone for multifamily housing and denser development and thus create more available housing —  and H.1111, which would incentivize such development.

“Boston is an attractive and exciting place to land a first job. Unfortunately, due to a growing housing shortage, the cost of housing in Boston and the surrounding cities and towns is incredibly high,” said Honan. “This is an important issue for college graduates because, after four years of freedom and independence, many will have to move back home.”

After graduating from Smith last spring, Erin Richards ’15 moved to Boston with a classmate and found an apartment in the Fenway area. “Our location is amazing, but I’m paying $600 per month to share a room smaller than my single at Smith,” she said.

Richards reassured soon-to-be alumnae that moving to an expensive city following graduation is not impossible. “It’s definitely doable — moving to Boston, or New York or San Diego post grad — because I have friends who are successfully living in each city. You just have to find people to live with, maybe change your lifestyle a bit and soak in the stress along the way.”