When I first applied for affordable housing in Somerville three years ago, I had no idea the dream of having my own place would eventually become a reality. It was a long shot. I submitted forms for the AVA Somerville complex slotted for Assembly Square and I quickly dropped off the required paperwork. I crossed my fingers.
At the time, the idea of creating a posh housing community on the rugged Puritan soil next to the Mystic River seemed like a good idea. Building a T stop on the Orange Line devoted to this new development seemed like an even better idea.
My first reaction to Assembly Row was: “I will believe it when I see it.”
Under the guidance of family and friends, I threw my name into the hat. At the time, I was struggling to find permanent housing. I was living in Davis Square and the rent was skyrocketing. I moved to Somerville’s Winter Hill neighborhood and have lived with roommates to afford rising living costs.
Even though I had a place to sleep, it never felt like home.
I didn’t hear from Avalon for about a year. One day, I received a notice in the mail that my name was selected out of hundreds, possibly thousands, of applicants in the housing lottery. I was No. 3 in line and, based on the tears streaming down my face, I felt like my prayers had been answered.
I had no idea that it would take more than two additional years of waiting, not to mention the back-and-forth paperwork nightmare. As Cassie Hurd points out in Alex Ramirez’s piece called Olympic Displacement, affordable doesn’t necessarily mean “low-income” housing. For example, Mayor Marty Walsh wants to build affordable housing units in Boston per his Housing 2030 plan. However, “they will be slated for households in the $50,000–$125,000 income range.”
Based on my extremely low salary as editor-in-chief of Spare Change News, I initially didn’t qualify for the new place. For the record, Walsh’s vision of affordable housing doesn’t necessarily apply to the working poor. Based purely on my income from two part-time jobs, writing books and freelance work, I still didn’t make enough. I almost gave up.
Luckily, I’m a long-time Somerville resident and had strong advocates at Avalon. I’m grateful for Mayor Joseph Curtatone’s support of the city’s growing creative class. After some additional paperwork hurdles, I was approved.
I moved into my new place last week. It’s absolutely beautiful and, for the first time in my life, I have my own apartment. I looked out at the Mystic River and knew it was worth the three-year fight.
There’s no place like home.