Boston Homeowners and Renters Get Creative

Meet the unicorns of Boston real estate: families who have found ways to survive the Greater Boston housing boom backed by neither foreign buyers nor inheritances from rich aunties.

boston-residents-1 hayley and tyler denker belmont

Photograph by Webb Chappell

The Multi-Generational Renters
The Denkers

Job: Marketing consultant (Hayley); Trader Joe’s manager (Tyler)
Home: Belmont multifamily
Monthly rent: $1,600

Hayley Denker, 28, grew up on the top floor of this Belmont two-family. Now she and her husband Tyler, 32—a Nebraska transplant—rent it from Hayley’s mom, while cousins downstairs babysit the couple’s toddler. Family support and great schools make it smart to come home again.

“People [we] know who are buying get 100 percent of the down payment from their parents,” Hayley says. “[We] don’t know anyone who has saved for one. Tyler’s family is horrified by these prices. The cost of a house there is $70,000. That’s a down payment here.”

boston-residents-2 aislin davis southie

Photograph by Webb Chappell

The Southie Holdouts
The Davises

Job: Teacher (Aislin)
Home: A South Boston single-family with three bedrooms and a finished attic
Price: $205,000 in 2000

Aislin Davis, 41, and her husband bought at the right time. Now the average South Boston single-family costs $542,000. But is there a price to pay for foresight?

“My daughter used to watch New Year’s Eve fireworks from our window. Now it’s condos,” Davis says. “You used to be able to see kids up and down the street. Now people keep to themselves more; maybe they buy and then rent out their condo. It’s not a neighborhood if you don’t know your neighbor. But we have the parks, free libraries, discounted camps. It wouldn’t be easy to leave.”

boston-residents-3 jen sullivan kendall square vivo apartment homes

Photograph by Webb Chappell

The Housing-Lottery Winner
Jen Sullivan

Job: Academia
Home: A 693-square-foot rental in Kendall Square’s Vivo Apartment Homes
Monthly Rent: $1,483

Jen Sullivan, 38, was rounding her 10th year in a $1,250 Cambridge walkup when she spotted an ad for a middle-income Cambridge Housing Lottery, the city’s first housing-assistance program. A one-bedroom at Vivo normally goes for about $3,600.

“Rent kept going up, but the cheapest I could get elsewhere was $1,800 to live in a basement with something wrong with it,” she says. “Winning the lottery has been life-changing. This apartment is brighter and cleaner. I hadn’t hosted people in years. I didn’t want to brag, but friends are genuinely happy for me.”

boston-residents-4 jessica sedan canopy coop

Photograph by Webb Chappell

The Kids’ Co-Op Pioneer
Jessica Sedan

Job: Biotech project manager
Home: In progress
Rent: Roughly $650 per room, once the group secures housing

Jessica Sedan, 33, is the cofounder of the Canopy, one of the city’s first housing cooperatives for families who want to share childcare and stay in Greater Boston—without Boston prices. She’s working with nonprofit Boston Community Cooperatives to obtain infrastructure and loans to acquire a 12-bedroom house for less than $700,000.

“We’re looking from Somerville to Quincy,” Sedan says. “We don’t know what will happen, but we’ll always be kid-friendly and thoughtful about gentrification. We want to contribute to a neighborhood, not push people out.”

boston-residents-5 greg and emily martin sailboat constitution marina condo inman square

Photograph by Webb Chappell

The Seafaring Couple
The Martins

Job: Engineering (Greg); pharmaceuticals (Emily)
Home: A sailboat at Constitution Marina and a condo in Inman Square
Cost: $27,000 annually for boat mooring and maintenance

Child-free PhDs Greg, 49, and Emily, 42, rent out their Inman Square condo for up to $300 nightly through Airbnb while spending their summers seaside in a two-bedroom sailboat.

“The Airbnb roughly covers our annualized boat cost,” Emily says. “It allows us to have a boat with basically no net cost, while living right downtown.”



REAL ESTATE CHART: Single-Family Homes
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