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Surviving the housing headache

Housing advice from a City Year alum

When I was considering where I wanted to serve with City Year, my first thought was that I wanted to go somewhere new. I wanted an adventure. I don’t have a reason why I chose Boston, besides that I just saw myself there, in a city I’d only briefly visited once and knew almost nothing about. When I was accepted into the corps, I then had to figure out where I was going to live.

Thanks to an old-school community site we now use Facebook groups, I was able to connect with fellow confirmed City Year AmeriCorps members and find roommates. Fortunately for me, one of them lived only an hour from Boston, so she did most of the leg work while the other three of us signed and mailed leases for a place recommended by our roommate. Since I was coming straight out of college, I’d never had to look for an apartment before. I was more relieved that someone else was taking care of it than worried about whether or not I would like the place.

When I served my second year in Chicago (another city I knew almost nothing about, but seemed really cool), finding a place I could afford on my own was surprisingly simple. I flew in for the weekend and made an appointment with a free apartment finding service that gets paid by landlords to find them good tenants. I shared my budget and proof of income, they took me around to look at places in my price range, and I was able to apply for an apartment by the end of the day.
Since figuring out housing isn’t always that simple, depending where you choose to serve, I asked some friends and colleagues about their experience relocating:

Consult your Admissions Managers for Advice

“When I chose to serve with City Year in Chicago, I didn’t have any connections but I was excited to serve a year in a city I was completely unfamiliar with. Moving to a new city presented its challenges, but I learned some invaluable things along the way. My first word of advice would be to reach out to the Admissions Managers! It is their job to help you prepare for your service year, which includes your move to the new city, and they will have great insight on neighborhoods that are most popular for young people. Also, do your own research. With the help of the internet and technology these days, you can learn so much about a new city right from your own couch.”
-Connie Chi, (Chicago ’11, ’12)

Find someone who’s looking for a roommate

“Moving to New Hampshire wasn’t as stressful as I thought it would be. Of course I was a bit anxious, but I was able to connect with another AmeriCorps member who already found an apartment, so in that regard I was pretty fortunate. I flew in from Springfield, IL and could only bring a couple of suitcases. I had to ship everything else. My apartment was completely empty when I moved in. Most of my furniture was donated from former City Year AmeriCorps members. I had two relatives help me move in about four days before the official start date. For two nights, we stayed in a hotel in Portsmouth as I got things situated with my new apartment. The first couple days I took time to explore the city, visit the City Year office (which helped me familiarize myself with my route to work), grocery shop, and get acclimated to the city. This really helped me embrace my new environment before having to worry about my year of service.”
-Joshua Merritt, (New Hampshire ’13)

Visit your city early to visit apartments yourself

“I was extremely excited and nervous when I decided to relocate from Philly to Boston. I didn’t know anyone in Boston and I knew nothing about the city. I arranged to visit a few weekends before I needed to move, and I was a craigslist hound! Over the course of that weekend I looked at close to 20 apartments and settled on the very last one I saw.
“When it came to money, I had a little saved but took some calculated risks when it came to paying the double rent [first and last month’s rent] that was due. I knew I had half, which I convinced the landlord to keep for a week [to hold the apartment] and I knew at the end of the week I could get my deposit back for my other apartment so I could send that up. Once I got there I had very little money and tons of well-wished gift cards to Subway!”
– Frankie Donlon, (Philadelphia ’12, Boston ’13)

Couch surf for a few days while you find your own place

“Moving across the country was a big move for me. A few days prior to registration day, I connected with a fellow AmeriCorps Member who would be serving in Sacramento as well and who had already tracked down an apartment and roommates. I was able to stay at her new place for a couple days as I visited places and then signed my own lease. The whole process took less than two and a half days from landing in Sacramento to moving into a new place.”
-Eric Barbour, (Sacramento ’13, ’14)

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