On May 1st, I found out that I have to start looking for a new apartment. It was really destabilizing. House-hunting in the Boston area as a renter is not a joke. On the same day, the wallpaper I had ordered to finally decorate my room arrived. At that moment, I felt some gratitude because at least I could return the wallpaper back to Target where I bought it.
House-Hunting In Boston: Part 1
Looking for housing in the Greater Boston area is hard. Being a Black woman looking for housing in Greater Boston has is soul-crushing. The pandemic has added another layer of complication. On top of that, I am currently unemployed. I have been in the middle of this process now since the beginning of June, so about 4 weeks. It doesn’t get any easier.
This past July 4th weekend, house-hunting in Boston was at the fore of my mind. Especially after I found a video that talked about how systemic racism in housing allocation decades ago has contributed to inequities in the Black community. Back when America started building suburban communities, the Federal Housing Authority included a clause in the loan documents it offered to developers. Developers of housing units could not sell or rent to Black families and individuals, due to the FHA clause. Black communities are still feeling the ramifications of that clause today.
The original houses that were built and sold to White Americans are really low prices.
This is true even in today’s money. This real estate formed the backbone of White economic wealth. It allowed them to educate their children. The equity in their homes allowed them to start businesses. The houses allowed White parents to leave an inheritance for their white children. The effect of blocking out Black families from the housing market is why today in the Greater Boston Area, white families have a net worth of almost $250,000 and Black families have a net worth of $8. Yes, $8! That’s not a typo. The Boston Globe reported on this stark economic inequity a couple of years back.
This economic inequity means that Black families and individuals are less likely to own homes. They lack the economic power that comes from generational wealth. This further exacerbated by the fact Black individuals on average earn sixty percent of what White individuals earn. Even when Black communities do spring up, there is a systemic denial of resources and services. Over-policing and the resulting violence that renders many neighborhoods of color undesirable. Houses, in predominantly Black communities, are often undervalued as a result of this. Until White ‘investors’ appear in the community and a cycle of gentrification once more denies communities of color livable and affordable homes.
As a Black renter in 2020 in the Greater Boston area, all this plays a factor in my ability to get an apartment.
The other day on Facebook, an agent for a building insinuated that I likely couldn’t afford the place I was seeking. At least she responded before I blocked her. Here is the thing. Just like jobs, there is a great amount of discrimination that happens in the housing markets. According to research, only about 45% percent of the housing advertisement that a Black person reaches out to, respond. White individuals have a response rate greater than 80% House-hunting in Boston, for me, reflects this disparity.
Due to systemic racism, I have less income to spend on housing. Also, during this pandemic, unemployment has disproportionately impacted communities of color. Despite the unemployment rate receding for the general population, the unemployment rate for Black individuals actually rose in May. I am a Black unemployed person. Since I don’t have lots of income, I really have to find affordable spaces. This means I’ll have to find a place further from the epicenter of business activities in the Boston area. In the past, I have lived a 45-minute commute from my place of work. Spending 90 minutes in public transportation each day was exhausting. This was 90 minutes on a good day. As I start looking for a new place, I am bracing myself for the fact that I’ll likely have a significant commute time to campus and back.