Photo by: Evan Greenwald
What’s your relationship to Allston-Brighton?
I moved to Boston for College 10 years ago (yikes) and after two years of campus housing, I moved to Allston. Living here has connected me to so many other artists, lifelong friends, and experiences that I can’t put into words. It’s the first place I have ever really felt at home. I feel grateful to be part of the artist/musician community here and how much growth it has inspired in me.
How has Allston-Brighton changed over the years?
I mean rent has just skyrocketed. I’ve seen so much new construction driving up prices in neighborhoods and on streets that used to be more affordable. venues closing, house shows struggling, smaller businesses vanishing…it feels grim. While some of AB has been known as a spot for student housing for a while, it also has been home to many lower income families, and immigrant communities. These changes in rent disproportionately affect people who are not white, erasing housing options that usually allow workers to have affordable spots to live within the city, where public transportation can open up work opportunities around the general Boston area.
In the last few years, I’ve seen countless friends/musicians/artists/organizers leave Boston citing high rent as a primary reason for leaving. The community really suffers when this happens, and we see artists who don’t have generational wealth be pushed out of the city. An art/music community is so much more than just about art. Because of the people and organizations within the Allston/Brighton music community, I have grown so much politically, socially and creatively. I’ve been handed life changing literature, participate in fundraisers, gained an understanding of local politics, and watched performers educate their audience as a part of their craft. I know that this isn’t unique to me; many people grow in this way because of the music/art scene. we all need to witness the expressions of people from many backgrounds and identities, connect to both new ideas, and ways of articulating our own experiences. I think this is super important…academic modes of education aren’t always accessible to everyone, and providing context for folks to grow and have access to information and new ideas in a space that doesn’t charge tuition is just absolutely so fucking important.
It can be challenging to find ways to talk about gentrification in a balanced way- I think its important not to only focus on the art and music community when this violent gentrification has an enormous effect on lives of people of color. We all need to work to learn about the experiences of our neighbors.
What is Allston-Brighton’s biggest challenge with affordable housing?
I don’t want to mis-speak here because I know I’m not an expert, but luxury condos feel like an obvious sticking point. Also, investment properties; it’s wild to think of how many apartments or condos are actually empty while people struggle to find homes in our neighborhood. We need far more affordable options within these new developments popping up. And what is affordable anyway? That word is thrown around to apply to units that are still out of the realm of financial possibility for so many people.
What would/does an affordable home mean for you?
yiiiiikes great question. Well as a teacher, I really struggle to make ends meet living in A/B. Right now about 70% of my income goes to rent, leaving very little for bills/healthcare which I don’t get through my job(s). Lately I’ve been thinking about this- I don’t know how to find sustainable balance between work and meeting my needs.
How would your opportunities/quality of life change if you didn’t have to worry about rent going up?
It’s hard to even put this into words, it would truly impact my life so drastically. I am always having to wonder if it makes more sense for me to move to another city in order to continue my life as an artist or teacher; I work so many hours here in order to afford to live it leaves me with no time to invest in my art practice or to get further education to become a certified teacher, which would open up so many career opportunities. I feel so stuck. As an Armenian American, it’s such a gift to be in a city with such an enormous Armenian population and community, and I really fear for the day that I cannot afford to live here any more, and must inevitably move somewhere that I am more disconnected and isolated from that enormous part of my identity. Seemingly every day, another handful of people I love and am close to end up moving away from the city because it is not sustainable to live here…it’s painful and sad to see my community shrink steadily. If everyone stayed here, I’d be happy in Boston for forever….but now every year I have to re-asses.
I can’t express how much it sucks but I don’t want to prioritize this experience of mine over more violent experiences of my neighbors. Another deep wish I have is to be less stuck in this cycle in which I am constantly struggling to make ends meet, so that I can be a more active member of my community. I know that I have an incredible amount ahead of me to learn when it comes to the needs of my neighbors, and although I am involved in what I can be involved in, and use as much free time as possible to self educate, I want, and need to break out of the cycle of working 50+ hours a week to make rent, so that I can be more present to my community.
If rent was more affordable, I would be able to work fewer hours, allowing me to access healthcare, be more present to my neighbors, invest in my own education and art practice more, and be able to be more part of a community; both as an Armenian person, and as a queer person.