We often hear how the lack of affordable housing puts pressure on business’ ability to retain talent, but don’t as often get to hear first-hand stories of that impact. With support of the Boston Foundation, the Alliance for Business Leadership has been working to get business leaders more focused on the need for workforce housing with a series of “housing bootcamps.” Last month’s bootcamp featured the story of Nick DeJesus, a Boston native whose story illustrates the threat housing costs pose for Boston’s economy.
DeJesus says he had a normal childhood in Roslindale, making his way through Boston Public Schools and graduating in 2012. When he was 20, he entered college at ITT Tech and took on $48K in loans in order to pay for school. The debt proved crushing, and after 2 years he dropped out and stayed at home with his mother in order to pay off his student loans. During that time, DeJesus never made more than $48,000 per year.
After trying a series of jobs, he seized the opportunity to enroll in courses at General Assembly to learn more about coding. He finished his coursework in 2 years, and was able to find a job that paid him $70,000 a year. Even then, the lack of affordable housing and his student loan debt forced him to live with his mother. DeJesus said he doesn’t regret his decision because it’s helped him reduce his debt to under $10,000 over time. For his peers, he says, living with parents is the “norm [for millennials] because of housing costs.” But it’s also something that could drive him out of the city he grew up in. As he plans for his future, he keeps the cost of living in mind. He looks at other states, like Texas, that have a lower cost of living but can offer him the same type of job that he has in Boston. He’d rather stay in the city he’s lived in for his entire life, but he notes that because of the high housing costs, “it doesn’t feel like home anymore.” He’s not alone.
Since 2002, The Boston Foundation has tracked the ongoing stresses on the Boston housing market with the annual Greater Boston Housing Report Card. You can download the latest version here.